“Monroe County Coalition was formed just prior to 2008 to address underage drinking in our Florida Keys community,” said the coalition’s Executive Director Susan Moore. “At that time 58.3% of high school youth reported drinking during the past 30 days, compared to Florida’s average of 39.5%. Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among youth and adults. Since the coalition started, high school alcohol past 30-day use has been cut in half, currently standing at 29.5%, and we are still working to prevent, reduce use and delay early onset. We have amazing partner sectors who work together to increase programs and services in our community to address needs.
“As a tourist community, not only do we have millions of visitors each year on vacation, but many who come to enjoy the ‘party atmosphere,’” said Moore. “We also face challenges with fentanyl, meth and other drugs coming into the Keys from the mainland. We are always looking for new ways to educate our youth on the harms of alcohol and other drug use.
“The brain and lung programs were an exciting addition to this year’s October Red Ribbon events implemented at Marathon Middle and High School to reduce favorable norms and attitudes on marijuana and vape use,” said Moore. “Monroe County Coalition’s youth leadership club partner, the Educational Coalition for Monroe County’s Champions for Change leaders, attended CADCA’s 29th Annual National Leadership Forum in February, where Medical Inflatables was promoting the brain and lung exhibit for alcohol, drug and vaping prevention. They shared this information with the coalition, who was able to sponsor this event.
“This was an exciting collaborative event with Monroe County Schools, Guidance Care Center, Inc.’s Project Success Program and our youth and adult leaders from the Champions for Change youth leadership club,” said Moore. “Project Success youth and Champions for Change youth implement monthly peer to peer messages in middle and high schools and October was the perfect month for the brain and lung program, reaching 416 youth peers at Marathon Middle and High School.
Following the program, 91% of students believe normal brain development can be altered by adolescent use of substances,” said Moore. “In addition, 86% of students reported that their friends would think it was wrong or very wrong to smoke e-cigarettes/vape/JUUL, and 88% of students believe the chemicals used in these devices will make it difficult to breathe. 82% of students also believe regular use of marijuana as an adolescent can permanently lower a person’s IQ. Finally, 90% of students believe the younger a person starts using substances, the more likely he or she will become addicted.
“As far as student satisfaction levels based on the presentation, 87% of students believe the Brain and Lung program was beneficial and 85% of students reported they learned quite a bit or a lot,” said Moore. “Despite the success of this program, we know that reducing the number of youth vaping will be challenging. We are working to implement multi-level strategies to improve policies and increase prevention and intervention programs.
“This February, Champions for Change youth leaders will be attending CADCA’s National Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C., and are excited to learn about new resources and opportunities to bring back to their school and community,” said Moore.