In the heart of Chicago’s northwest suburbs, the Communities for Positive Youth Development (CPYD) coalition is a noteworthy example of how community engagement and collaborative efforts can become a powerful force in combatting rising youth substance use trends. Formed in April of 2014, the CPYD has worked to organize, educate, and engage its community to prevent youth substance use and other harmful behaviors for nearly a decade. The outcomes CPYD has achieved in these past nine years has led to national recognition through the Blue Ribbon Coalition initiative as the 2023 Coalition of Excellence for their intermediate outcomes.
Geographically focused within the suburban communities of Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, and Palatine, Illinois, CPYD serves a combined population of nearly 200,000 residents across 26 zip codes. During the assessment phase, in line with the Strategic Prevention Framework, the coalition identified a pressing issue in their region: youth using nicotine products, particularly e-cigarettes and vaping. According to their 2022 Illinois Youth Survey data, 4% of high school students reported using e-cigarettes/vaping in the past 30 days, while 8% reported use in the past year.
CPYD understands the importance of involving key stakeholders in the planning and implementation phases. In order to identify how their coalition would tackle this particular substance use issue, their Data and Strategic Planning Committee, consisting of healthcare workers, law enforcement, school staff, and National Guard staff, began by assessing data trends and concerns. The information gathered was then passed along to the CPYD’s Executive Committee, where data was evaluated, and strategies were brainstormed to counteract those trends. Finally, coalition members were given the opportunity to provide final thoughts, review the strategic plan, and give final approval.
Upon identifying that 11% of high school students perceived only a “slight” risk in using e-cigarettes, and 25% of 11th graders purchased tobacco products from retail sources, CPYD prioritized addressing accessibility of tobacco products and changing youth’s favorable attitudes towards them.
CPYD’s strategy to combat favorable youth attitudes involved increasing information to youth, leading to a significant decrease in high school students’ perception of vaping as only a “slight” risk – from 30% in 2018 to 11% in 2022. Through state campaigns and programs, such as the Vaping Communication Campaign, the coalition effectively changed this root cause identified in their Logic Model.
Another strategy CPYD employed was the implementation of the Restorative Practices Vaping Sessions, which served as an alternative to the suspension program for 9th-12th-grade students who had been caught vaping in school. This program, part of CPYD’s strategy to promote and continue partnering with Recovery Support Services, has shown promising results. The number of students given citations for vaping in school decreased from 60 in 2020 to 33 in 2022. Moreover, the percentage of high school students receiving out-of-school suspension for vaping violations decreased from 18% in 2020 to 15% in 2022.
Through strategic planning, collaboration, and a steadfast commitment to its mission, CPYD has not only identified and addressed critical issues but has also achieved tangible positive outcomes in its service area. As the winner of this year’s Blue Ribbon Coalition of Excellence Award, CPYD serves as an inspiring model for communities striving to create a healthier, safer, and more supportive environment for their youth.
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