Prevention works to stop substance misuse and abuse before it starts. In Oakland County, Michigan, the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities piloted a new initiative called “Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Healthy.”
The initiative targets county-wide middle and high school students with a comprehensive program utilizing prevention principles, and focusing on substance misuse, mental health and emotional well-being.
“Through parent programs, student programs and teacher trainings, this platform seeks to address prevention from a holistic approach, as it utilizes essential resources and long-term sustainable modalities,” said Mary Ann Vergith, Prevention Program Manager. “A unique portion of this initiative is that young people in recovery describe their path through addiction and recovery through a powerful message that empowers youth to make healthy choices.”
This program provides immediate next steps that include access to the Oakland County Youth Collaborative, connection to local prevention coalitions, evaluation data, focus groups and adaptable youth programs. The ultimate goal of this program is to “equip parents, connect youth and empower educators as we approach prevention as a collaborative community.”
The Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities utilizes qualitative and quantitative data that results in a targeted prevention strategy, customized to fit the needs of each school. In the pilot period, “Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Healthy” reached 10,000 students in 30 schools across the county. Students participating in the program reported a statistically significant increase in perception of risk from pre-test to post-test when asked questions related to how much risk individuals put themselves in if they use alcohol, marijuana or prescription drugs.
“By providing resources to coalitions in local communities, prevention campaigns and strategies are implemented county-wide,” said Vergith. “We encourage collaboration among all community sectors, local prevention organizations, schools and community stakeholders. Evaluation should be emphasized as a means of reporting outcomes to the community and sharing successes. Ultimately, we are stronger together, and success is measured in successful youth making healthy choices for their lives.”