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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Empower Youth Ambassadors

Eighty students from community high schools met Thursday at the Scioto County Welcome Center to engage in a workshop about drug addition, drug abuse, and resistance skills. These teens have earned the title of Youth Ambassadors. As they return to their schools, these knowledgeable leaders will  influence other classmates to make good decisions about drug experimentation.

The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America is working with these youth to help local communities implement and practice recovery programs based on evidence-based strategies. In addition to Youth Ambassadors, local recovery depends upon parents, educators, and community leaders to take active roles in bettering the unique conditions in their communities that contribute to drug abuse.

Prevention programs work at the community level with civic, religious, law enforcement, and other government organizations to enhance anti-drug norms and pro-social behaviors. Many programs coordinate prevention efforts across settings to communicate consistent messages through school, work, religious institutions, and the media.

Research has shown 
that programs that reach youth 
through multiple settings 
can strongly impact community norms.

(Chou, C.; Montgomery, S.; Pentz, M.; Rohrbach, L.; Johnson, C.; Flay, B.; and Mackinnon, D. Effects of a community-based prevention program in decreasing drug use in high-risk adolescents. American Journal of Public Health 88:944–948, 1998)

Based on studies of many small communities, researchers have identified nine stages of "community readiness" that can guide prevention planning. Once prevention planners know what stage the community is in, they can take the next steps for starting prevention programming. (Plested, B.; Smitham, D.; Jumper-Thurman, P., Oetting, E., and Edwards, R. Readiness for drug use prevention in rural minority communities. Substance Use And Misuse 34(4 and 5):521–544, 1999)

Just one important evaluation approach is to track data over time on drug abuse among students in school, rates of truancy, school suspensions, drug abuse arrests, and drug-related emergency room admissions. Data from community drug abuse assessments can serve as a baseline for measuring change. Because drug abuse problems change with time, periodic assessments can ensure that programs are meeting current community needs.

Scioto County

What a wonderful resource we have in these Youth Ambassadors. Adolescent substance use can interfere with cognitive, emotional, and social development and may even affect later functioning in adult domains such as parenting and employment. Preventing the start of negative behaviors in youth is an important foundation of every healthy family and community.

Evidence from controlled studies, 
national cross-site evaluations, 
and CSAP grantee evaluations 
demonstrates that prevention programs work.

Now is the time for parents, educators, and community leaders in every community in Scioto County to embrace this opportunity for change as they access their youth and their unique substance abuse problems.
Together, these individuals can make a marked difference in the lives of our most important resource.

In the near future Scioto communities like Sciotoville, Portsmouth, Lucasville, and Franklin Furnace are going to be asked to "shake the trees," discover drug realities in specific terms, and reveal the truth about existing factors that put children in risk of drug abuse. To be truly effective, the roots of prevention require brutally honest assessment. This process will be impossible without the cooperation of all citizens.

The keys to successfully implementing strong prevention programs are full-scale commitment and determined action. We all acknowledge that youth do abuse substances; we all understand the risks of this abuse; we all want to end the problem and save lives, but we ALL DO NOT take on the responsibility we should.


As the Youth Ambassadors return to their schools 
with good intentions of bettering their communities, 
we can thank them for their participation, 
allow them to speak with others about what they have learned,
and file the entire experience under
"just another youth workshop that looks good 
on a college resume."


We can help these teens 
be the catalyst of prevention 
that saves their communities 
tremendous suffering and tragic endings
by actively supporting their efforts
to end substance abuse.

"Dead On Arrival"

Discovered cold and blue,
Vomit crusting on the floor.
Empty prescriptions on the nightstand,
On the carpet a couple more.
Sirens as the ambulance approaches,
But there's little chance of survival.
At the emergency room he's pronounced
Dead on arrival.
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