Coalitions in Action—Rockville Centre Coalition for Youth Fills the Gap with Post-COVID Community Prevention Education

“New York state has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rockville Centre Coalition for Youth Project Coordinator Ruthanne McCormack. “We have been unable to hold in-person meetings and continue our advocacy work with town, county, state and federal officials. Instead, we have been utilizing social media, the village broadcasting system and local newspapers to provide our community important information and updates on how youth are being impacted by the isolation they are experiencing during the pandemic.”

“Local and county law enforcement, as well as pharmacists, hospitals and medical professionals have provided us with information on fatal and non-fatal overdoses, suicides and mental health issues they are seeing in youth and adults during the pandemic,” said McCormack. “We have had two billboards up since March 2020, addressing the risk of substance use and providing information on how to get help. These billboards will continue through 2021. The governor of New York is looking to commercialize marijuana in 2021, and we will be collaborating with members of our coalition sectors to create an effective billboard on the dangers of marijuana use.”

“We continue to hold monthly coalition meetings on Zoom, and attend monthly meetings for the Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force and the Youth Safety Coalition as well,” said McCormack. “During Black History Month, we have partnered with the Martin Luther King Community Center to hold a fun day of prevention education. The program started with a learning activity educating the youth about African American leaders, followed by a demonstration from the Rockville Centre Police Department for older youth using the Fatal Vision Goggles. The goggles allow youth to experience firsthand how alcohol and marijuana can affect their cognitive behavior and motor skills. The younger kids learned about how alcohol and other substances can negatively impact their lives.”

“We were honored to be part of the Non-Opioid Options Grant Project, which enabled us to educate our community on the dangers of opioid use and alternative options that are available for pain relief after surgery and injuries. The Gateway Film was shown during the month of November three times a day on our village TV station,” said McCormack. “The film tells the story of three families impacted by opioid use disorder due to surgery and sports injuries, and the devastating impact opioid use had on them. All pharmacies in our area, including CVS, Rite Aid and privately-owned pharmacies, now include a flyer addressing the importance of discarding unused medications with every prescription.  A permanent medication drop box was also installed at our police station in 2017, and the police department collects and destroys over 60 pounds of medications every month from the drop box.”

“We have also been instrumental in advocating for our county and state to ban flavored vape products,” said McCormack. “Store owners that stopped selling the flavored vapes were featured in our paper and those that continued to sell flavored vapes were fined. A vape shop in our village was shut down as a result of our advocacy, and local health teachers began to educate students on the dangers of vaping and how to get help for nicotine addiction.”

“It is important to engage all members of the community,” said McCormack. “We engage the Hispanic members of our community by visiting them where they are at the Hispanic Brotherhood Center. All materials are translated into Spanish and our Youth Surveys are also offered in Spanish. Our local senior center and schools welcomed us to present in person before COVID-19, and we now offer virtual presentations and resources for these community members.”