Coalitions in Action— Montgomery County Prevention Coalition Addresses Youth Marijuana Use
Tell me about your community and the communities that your coalition serves – its population and unique features. When was the coalition formed?
The Montgomery County Prevention Coalition serves all of Montgomery County, Ohio. The county is home to the city of Dayton, Ohio’s 6th largest city, and is also home to several suburban and rural municipalities. Over 500,000 residents call Montgomery County home, and the county continues to see growth from citizens representative of countries around the world immigrating to Ohio. The county has 16 public school districts as well as several parochial and charter schools and the University of Dayton. Wright Patterson Air Force Base is located just to the east of Montgomery County, and many students on base attend county schools. Despite the thriving nature of the county, the Greater Dayton area has been hit hard by opioids and other substance use that many communities around the nation are dealing with. The coalition was formed in the Fall of 2017 as communities were coming together to look at interventions to put in place to reduce drug-related deaths throughout the county.
What unique issues is your coalition facing?
“In 2016 the state of Ohio legalized marijuana for medicinal use for patients with one of various qualifying conditions,” said Coalition Manager Tristyn Eppley. “The medical marijuana program was launched in Ohio in late 2018. The city of Dayton also completely decriminalized marijuana for personal recreational use in November 2018. The Marijuana Prevention Committee within the coalition understood the implications that this could have on youth marijuana use throughout our county. The coalition has seen trends over the past few years showing that youth are perceiving marijuana to be less risky than in years prior. The committee understood that the recent changes in legislation, both at a state-level and locally, could cause the community as whole to have decreased perceptions of harm around marijuana which could lead to community norms that unintentionally promote youth use.”
What activity or program is your coalition most proud of and/or what activity would you like us to spotlight?
“Knowing that parents and guardians having conversations about substance use with their children is critical to prevention, the committee decided to create a toolkit to assist parents in having conversations with their children,” said Eppley. “While each state is quite unique in their legislation around marijuana legalization, the group opted to see what other states had done around prevention messaging given that there were no materials specific to the new legislation in the state of Ohio. After reviewing several resources, the group was able to develop a toolkit that provided conversation tips to parents of middle school and high school age youth, as well as another resource for parents of college students. The group also developed resources on ‘Marijuana & Pregnancy’ as well as ‘Marijuana & Breastfeeding,’ as we learned that this information would be useful at local health centers. A ‘Marijuana as Medicine’ patient tip card was also developed to encourage individuals that have been recommended marijuana for a medicinal purpose to safely store their marijuana to prevent accidental ingestion among children. Finally, the committee has partnered with local law enforcement to promote a ‘Drive High Get an OVI’ campaign. OVI stands for operating a vehicle impaired and is synonymous with a DUI or DUID conviction in other states. All materials have been made available for download to our community at http://beinformedohio.org/.”
How did you get there, and what are your outcomes?
“Since the launch of the toolkit campaign in Fall 2018, 250 individuals have downloaded materials from the toolkit on the website,” said Eppley. “The ‘Marijuana & Pregnancy’ and ‘Marijuana & Breastfeeding’ materials have been dispersed at local health centers that serve expectant and new mothers. These materials have also been translated to Spanish as well for use in local healthcare centers. The parent education materials have been passed out among various parent groups connected with public schools throughout the county. Over 500 copies of the ‘Talking to Youth About Marijuana’ resource were dispersed in the coalition’s prevention resource bags that were handed out at DEA Take Back Day events. The ‘Drive High Get an OVI’ message has been featured on several social media platforms throughout the region and has garnered over 6,000 unique impressions. A local news station did a feature on marijuana-related driving incidents in Montgomery County with coalition manager Tristyn Eppley, who explained the increase in incidents can be attributed partly to the decriminalization of marijuana in the city of Dayton and the decreased perception of harm among local residents.”
What advice would you give to other coalitions that may be addressing some of the same issues?
“Our advice to other coalitions looking to develop messaging around marijuana use is to understand your community norms around marijuana and to find common ground with those that may oppose the coalition’s view,” said Eppley. “While the local residents may not completely agree with the coalition’s views on marijuana, we can all agree that youth should not be using marijuana, and marijuana should be safely stored to keep out of reach of children. By finding common ground we can increase community buy-in of our messaging and increase health outcomes throughout the county.”