Rise Above Colorado targets Steamboat teens
Steamboat Springs — A Colorado teen drug-use prevention organization is asking students in Steamboat Springs and Craig to “rise above” drugs and enjoy healthy alternatives.
The #IRiseAbove campaign officially was launched on a statewide level last Saturday and aims to get teens to enjoy and share photos of their alternatives to drug use, like sports, art and music, on social media sites using the hashtag.
The social media posts will earn points for students in each city while simultaneously raising awareness for what organizers call a critical problem with teen drug use in Colorado.
Organizers said the campaign will resonate with media-savvy teens.
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“We’re going where teens reside, where they feel safe — and that’s not always a physical space,” said Jonathan Judge, program director for Rise Above Colorado. “Social media has made campaigns like this unbelievably easy to run.”
As part of the campaign’s kickoff, Rise Above Colorado held a three-day summit in Steamboat Springs last week during which staff met with local human services organizations and law enforcement to discuss teen drug prevention strategies.
“Communities need a comprehensive prevention plan,” Kate Elkins, program director for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, said during a lunchtime discussion Wednesday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.
Elkins said that communities need health curricula in the classroom combined with parent outreach to fight the social norms of living in a resort town where marijuana is legal.
Participants discussed ways to engage parents in meaningful discussions about drug use and about how to direct those in crisis to the best available resources.
Elkins said Grand Futures was revitalizing its use of the 2-1-1 telephone hotline, which is designed to connect callers with resources best suited to their needs.
Wednesday’s discussion focused on the abuse of prescription pain pills among young people.
Colorado is the second-worst state in the country when it comes to the incidence of pain pill abuse, according to Rise Above Colorado.
Participants in the discussion watched an adult-geared video about five young people who battled prescription drug abuse. By the end of the video, three of the teens had died, one had recovered and one remained in a wheelchair and unable to speak because of an overdose.
The movie, “Parents 360 Rx,” featured interviews with parents who were in disbelief that their children had an addiction problem until it was too late. Teens in the film would raid medicine cabinets at friends’ houses and hide prescription pills in places around their parents’ homes that never were searched, like in their socks or inside a electric outlet cover.
“It’s hard to watch and it’s hard to hear,” said Nicola Erb, community outreach manager for Rise Above Colorado.
The movie ended with a father of one of the children who died urging others to talk with their kids about prescription drug use.
“Have the conversation before it’s too late to have the conversation,” he said.
During the discussion after the film, one participant said that while the local community is small, there have been some incidents related to teen drug abuse.
As part of their initiative, Rise Above Colorado brought a professional artist into the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs last week to paint a mural on an open wall there.
Murals in Steamboat and 11 other communities were created with the help of youth volunteers to depict ways to “rise above drug use.”
Rise Above Colorado also visited the Steamboat Springs Middle School to talk with students about the campaign.
According to Rise Above Colorado, 90 percent of addictions begin in the teenage years, and surveys reveal that 90 percent of Colorado teens see a great risk in using meth once, statistics at the forefront of the campaign by the organization that formerly ran the Colorado Meth Project.
Despite the statistics, the organization said that when young people are educated about drug abuse and misuse when they are young and if they are able to go through their teen years without using, they are very unlikely to develop a problem later in life.
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