Tuesday, December 29, 2009

GeorgetownCARES considers Substance Abuse Prevention Strategies

PRESS RELEASE: to the Georgetown Record, re: GeorgetownCARES Meeting 12/15/09, printed 12/24/09

GeorgetownCARES, a community-based youth substance abuse prevention group, had their 4th meeting on Tuesday, December 15th. The group, open to anyone interested in the community, works to build awareness of how we can support youth and their families to make healthy, legal choices that will keep them safe and reduce substance abuse. By bringing community sectors and parents together to discuss and learn about the relevant issues, the group hopes to reduce underage drinking, illegal drug use, and cigarette smoking among our youth.

Pam Lundquist, a Georgetown parent certified in community prevention, is founder and Coordinator. Honorary advisors include Superintendent Carol Jacobs and Police Chief James Mulligan.

On Tuesday night, Ms. Lundquist spoke with attendees about how we, as a community, can reach young people by applying best practices in substance abuse prevention that other local towns have found success with. The goal of the evening discussion was to consider practical and effective strategies for reducing youth substance abuse that parents or organizations might be able to implement someday in Georgetown.

Towns or school districts whose best practices were looked at included Beverly, Burlington, Danvers, Franklin County, Gloucester, Malden, Melrose, MASCO, Newburyport, Pentucket, Reading, Revere, and Tewksbury. Ms. Lundquist spoke with representatives from most of these towns to verify information and the effectiveness of the practices discussed.

A few of the innovative strategies discussed included:
- Innovative Bylaws: social host liability, first offence youth diversion, youth curfews.
- Community/Parent surveys to gauge interest, perceptions and practices
- A Prescription Drug Drop-Box for outdated or extra drug disposal
- Safe Homes Parent Team that takes a pledge to not to serve alcohol to minors
- Prom best practices/pre-prom forums/supervised all night post-prom parties
- School-based Youth Action Teams or Crews to carry out research projects and peer-based initiatives
- Environmental mapping projects by youth to reduce crime in “hot spot” areas
- School drug and alcohol policies clarified and promoted
- DARE Education Programs
- Continuous improvement/enrichment of health educational curriculum
- Parent education workshops/forums, for example, on social host liability.
- Designative Driver programs for restaurants
- Police website with prevention tips, illegal substance and law-related information.

Lundquist commended both the Georgetown School District and the Georgetown Police Department for their proactive preventative stance toward youth substance abuse prevention.

She noted that in Georgetown we can be very grateful for a proactive, progressive school system that has an extensive health care curriculum with substance abuse prevention in it for grades K-12, with the exception of grades 2-5. In grades 2-5, the Responsive Classroom nicely supports the kind of social-emotional student development that will lead to emotional resiliency, self-esteem, resistance skills and respectful treatment of others, in other words protective factors, that will prevent substance abuse later on.

The Georgetown schools also have an active SADD group, a Community Service Program that can be used to explore, research and prevent youth substance abuse issues. The Middle School Adding the Zero PTA-sponsored Program, run by 6th grade Teacher Team Leader Diane Weldon, which promote healthy anti-substance abuse messages over the loud speaker in the morning as well as conducts poster contests to communicate substance abuse prevention messages. The winner of the poster contest gets their poster featured on the next year’s agenda book.

The Police Department has also been highly supportive of youth substance abuse prevention, conducting retailer compliance checks, sobriety check-points, and participating in GeorgetownCARES Coalition meetings. The department’s general philosophy of Highly Visible Community Policing also supports a clear message to youth that illegal substance abuse will not be tolerated and will be consistently responded to for the protection and safety of all Georgetown citizens.

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