The Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon County, a division of Prevention Resources, Inc., joined forces with local schools to get youth involved in increasing awareness to substance misuse and mental health as part of “National Prevention Week”. The annual week-long health observance, organized by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SASMHA), took place Monday, May 14th through Sunday, May 20th. As part of the National Prevention Week, local schools hosted different events and campaigns to get young people engaged in this initiative.
According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2004), percentages of marijuana, cigarette, and alcohol initiates among youth increase between spring (April and May) and summer (June and July), and the timing of National Prevention Week helps to educate young people and their families at this crucial time of year.National Prevention Week is held each year during the third week of May, near the start of summer. Summer is a season filled with celebrations and recreational activities where substance use and misuse can happen, such as graduation parties, proms, weddings, sporting events, and outdoor activities. National Prevention Week is timed to allow schools to take part in a prevention-themed event before the school year ends, raising awareness in students of all ages.
“This time period is crucial to educate young people and adults of the dangers of substance misuse. People never think something bad will happen to them, until it does. That is why it is so important to raise awareness to prevention efforts so we can provide community members with the proper tools to make smart decisions,” Lesley Gabel, Director of Safe Communities Coalition, Co-CEO of Prevention Resources, Inc.
The Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon partnered with Alexandria Middle School and hosted a “Hidden in Plain Sight” Presentation on May 18th. The event featured DEA Special Agent Tim McMahon and gave attendees the opportunity to view a mock teen bedroom to see how drugs and paraphernalia could be hidden in plain sight. “The DEA in NJ started the Hidden in Plain Sight program as a new way to educate parents on what can possibly be hidden in their teen’s bedroom that could be indicators of drug use. It is ok as a parent to go into your children’s bedroom to see what is going on. It is the perfect opportunity to start a conversation with your kids about the dangers of drug use. It is vitally important to be their parents and not their friends.” Said Special Agent Timothy McMahon of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division.
The event also showed “Pills to Heroin”, presented by Jerri Collevechio, Sr. Director of Prevention Resources Inc., a documentary by the Safe Communities Coalition, that features young adults sharing their first-hand accounts of their progression from pills to heroin. The documentary was created to educate on the potential for addiction to opioid, pain medication and to clean these prescriptions out of your medicine cabinet to reduce availability to our community, stated Collevechio. The event concluded in announcing the winners of the poster contest based around National Prevention Week.
Clinton Public School also joined Safe Communities Coalition in “National Prevention Week” by having 7th and 8th graders participate in the “I Choose” Project. This is when participants take a photograph of themselves holding a sign with their personal message about why they choose substance abuse prevention. The students also engaged in designing signs, setting short-term and long-term goals, and brainstorming “natural highs”. All of these activities were designed to get young people thinking about how applying a positive vision can result in a happy, drug free life.
“The ‘I Choose’ Project is a positive platform for young people to reflect on their goals and positively engage their community,” said Amy Menes, Safe Communities Coalition Youth Leader.
About the Safe Communities Coalition: The goal of the Safe Communities Coalition is to live in a safe and healthy community by eliminating drug use, underage drinking and prescription drug abuse. Through wide-spread community collaboration, environmental change, and community education in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, the Safe Communities Coalition will address areas of concern including, but not limited to, reducing Rx drug abuse across the lifespan, underage drinking, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, and other drug use. For more information on the Coalition, visit our website at www.safecoalition.org or follow us on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/SafeCommunitiesCoalition, Twitter @safe_coalition or Instagram at safe_coalition