Community Connections: Fostering drug-free youth
In Routt County, we are seeing teen binge drinking rates at 22 percent, which is higher than the state average of 16 percent. But how is our community addressing this issue of youth substance use and abuse? There are five different alcohol, tobacco and other drug use risk factors that Grand Futures Prevention Coalition tackles with our work in prevention. Grand Futures works on limiting youth access to substances, increasing the perception of the harm associated with using substances, decreasing favorable social norms to alcohol and drug use, providing alternative activities for youth in our community and making referrals to local mental health agencies for citizens dealing with substance abuse. As a community, we must work on all of these elements in order to promote a positive, healthy and safe county.
We have begun to limit youth access to substances with our “Keep Your Kids Safe” campaign, which targets locking up prescription drugs. The Steamboat Springs Police Department is also receiving a 24-hour drop box for unwanted or unused medications. Steamboat also passed a Social Host Ordinance, which states that adults cannot knowingly host an underage drinking party for minors. One of prevention’s basic strategies is: If they can’t get it, they can’t use it. We encourage parents and adults to lock up or monitor their liquor and medicine cabinets and make sure they lock up any marijuana products as well.
One of the ways we increase youth awareness of the harm substances cause is by doing youth presentations. Grand Futures gets into the classrooms to give presentations on substance use and abuse, the teen brain and body development and how drugs can impact that process, tactics and strategies of tobacco and alcohol companies, how drugs can affect athletic performance and the dimensions of wellness. To schedule a presentation for your classroom, contact Megan McCord, Routt County program director, by emailing email@example.com or calling 970-879-6188.
Dealing with favorable social norms is one of the most difficult risk factors we face. In an age in which media glorifies intoxication and carelessness, it can be hard to encourage youth to abstain from substance use. However, in collaboration with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and Routt and Moffat County Teen Councils, Grand Futures has been working on a positive social norming campaign on Instagram and Facebook: #Bettermeyv. Students post pictures of themselves doing things they love that encourage them to be a better people and hashtag #bettermeyv for chances to win prizes. With more than 600 photos posted so far, there has been a huge impact in our teen populations’ positive messaging to live healthy, productive lives. Many pictures include outdoor activities, volunteerism and friendship — all important values we are working to instill in our youth. Attend a gallery of our #Bettermeyv project in the Steamboat Springs Middle School Arcade (entrance) from 4:30 to 6 p.m. May 8. Snacks will be provided.
As a community, Routt County works very hard to provide alternative activities for youth to prevent drug use. Grand Futures is thrilled to have Teen Councils in all three of our high schools now: Soroco, Hayden and Steamboat Springs. Our Teen Councils are made up of dedicated high school students who want to provide a voice for teens in their community. They tackle issues facing youth, promote healthy lifestyle choices and host awesome activities. Our activities have ranged from Nerf gun wars and dodgeball tournaments to bowling with turkeys. Why go out and drink when you can huck a turkey at some pins?
Grand Futures also encourages those struggling with addiction and substance abuse to seek out assistance and refers to a number of mental health providers in the area.
To learn more about Grand Futures, our prevention strategies, and how you can get involved in making our community a positive and healthy place to live, visit grandfutures.com or contact McCord at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-879-6188.
Megan McCord serves as Routt County program director for Grand Futures, which works to create and support healthy, positive lifestyle choices as alternatives to substance abuse for our youth and in our community.
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