December 1, 2016

Schuyler County Coalition on Underage Drinking and Drugs – “We’re All In This Together!”

“Underage drinking was a major issue in our community when our coalition – Schuyler County Coalition on Underage Drinking and Drugs (SCCUDD) – was launched in 2006,” affirms SCCUDD’s Project Coordinator, Casey Allen. While it is the second least populated county in New York State, at the time, Schuyler County had:

  • Two times the state rate of youth DWI arrests
  • Two times the state rate of unintentional injuries and death
  • Three times the state rate of youth on probation with alcohol involvement
  • A high rate of youth injured in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents

“We’ve come a long way since then, addressing not only alcohol abuse, but tobacco control, opioid misuse, heroin abuse and more,” says Allen. Earlier this week, CADCA had the opportunity to interview Allen and School Liaison, Kali Beilman-Martin about SCCUDD’s accomplishments. 

Schuyler County is a small, picturesque community in the Finger Lakes region of New York with a population of less than 20,000. The community is located in the heart of New York’s wine country and is home to a large number of wineries and distilleries. Where other coalitions might view this reality as a barrier, SCCUDD rises to the challenge due to its eager, passionate and engaged membership, many of whom are involved in the daily lives of Schuyler County youth.

SCCUDD’s goal is to prevent, reduce and delay the onset of substance use among Schuyler County youth by collaborating with community partners, promoting prevention education and substance-free activities and implementing environmental strategies. Since receiving Drug-Free Communities funding, SCCUDD has worked to improve coalition capacity and implement new youth-training programs, informational forums and products, youth-designed prevention events and more. Some of its greatest achievements include:

Schuyler Teens against Alcohol, Nicotine & other Drugs (STAND): SCCUDD’s youth coalition, STAND, was launched in the spring of 2015, after SCCUDD sponsored a Lead & Seed training in the community, and the students have been busy ever since! One of their recent activities was to create and disseminate the Voices of Our Youth Survey through collaboration with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). This survey was designed to gain a better understanding of student beliefs and practices concerning alcohol consumption. Sixty-eight students in grades 7-12 participated, and their feedback was presented at a community forum during Alcohol Awareness Month. “We like to base our interventions and initiatives on survey results and other data collected,” commented Allen. Here are some of the findings:

Voices of Our Youth Survey Findings

STAND has also taken the lead in implementing Scholastic’s Medicine Safety Youth Educators Program. “Using the Over-the-Counter Medicine Safety Program curriculum, our peer educators have taught 27 5th-6th graders and 50 adults. For some of our facilitators, this is the first time they’ve spoken in front of large groups,” says SCCUDD’s School Liaison Kali Beilman-Martin. “It’s a win/win. The response to the program has been outstanding, and mastering the curriculum gives our high school educators confidence which will benefit them for a lifetime.” Additionally, STAND has:

  • Branded the PowerPoint presentation to ensure community relevancy
  • Created a script for the high school students to follow, ensuring that key questions and answered are consistently addressed
  • Incentivized the middle schoolers with coalition-branded giveaways

Collaboration with Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness Coalition (STTAC): Because of the coalition’s work with STTAC, the community now has one more smoke-free, multi-unit housing option. SCCUDD and STTAC are also addressing point of sale advertising of tobacco products and have launched a tobacco-free pharmacy initiative.

Strong Social Media Presence: Coalition leadership believes in the power of social media. SCCUDD launched comprehensive social media campaigns to commemorate Alcohol Awareness Month in April 2016 and last month during National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. The coalition most recently provided Facebook Live coverage of their annual meeting including student presentations on the Medicine Safety Youth Educators Program and the District Attorney’s presentation on the State of Drug Use in Schuyler County, and this last effort yielded 1000 hits, which says a lot for this small community!

We’re All In This Together: When SCCUDD needs to mobilize around specific issues, the coalition has the tools to do so. SCCUDD has all of the key players at the planning table, including directors and representatives of government and community organizations. Also, present at the table are concerned community members including youth, parents and business owners.

Allen’s advice to other coalitions: “Reaching a common goal takes time. Bring the right people to the table, and remember that small steps can make significant impact. Even if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, you are.” affirms Allen.

Indeed SCCUDD’s efforts are paying off. “As compared to 2013 data, perception of risk is up for some substances. Parental and friend disapproval of alcohol and other drug misuse is up for alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and prescription drugs. Additionally, perception of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana availability is down among youth,” affirms Allen. “We also found, in a survey of community adults, a little more than 70 percent of respondents were supportive of enacting a social host ordinance and adding beer gardens at community events. All promising news,” says Allen. 

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