The drug addiction team in the national spotlight

The All-Stars Prevention Group hosted a community event at Veteran’s Park called Vincent’s Legacy: Kindness Day, using it as a chance to get out in the sun and share helpful information about drug and alcohol addiction.

Charlotte Reeves

Last month, the Surry County Addiction Recovery Office came under the spotlight from Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration partners for being “prevention rock stars in their community”.

Being honored in the spotlight is no small feat, said Charlotte Reeves, community outreach coordinator for the county. “I think it’s an important step because they recognize that the work has begun in our county. I’m extremely proud of this award because it takes a lot of hard work and coordination to get to this point.”

Established by Congress in 1992, the administration was created to provide leadership, support programs, and devote resources to help guide national policy toward action based on the knowledge that “behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment works and people recover.”

Citing the good work of the Surry County team, the agency highlighted the goal of creating a continuum of care that “removes barriers for those seeking treatment and recovery.” Programs such as Ride the Road to Recovery are among the most visible of these services. It offers transportation to the doctor, to treatment or to court so that not having a ride is not a barrier to recovery – it can be removed as a barrier.

The Surry County Addiction Recovery Office has been credited for its recent implementation of the “Speak Up, They Hear You” campaign messaging via social media posts, podcasts and advocacy columns in the log. Also, for organizing trainings throughout the community, including an initial staff training at Pilot Mountain Secondary School and Surry Central Secondary School’s Substance Abuse Awareness Week.

The Speak Up, They Hear You campaign aims to reduce underage alcohol and other substance use among young people by providing caregivers with the information and resources they need to address these issues with children early and often.

Parents have a significant influence on their children’s decision to experiment with alcohol and drugs. The program materials tell parents, “Even though it may not look like it, when parents talk about underage alcohol and substance use, their kids hear it.”

“Speak, They Hear You” was originally intended to help parents of children aged 9 to 15 prevent young people from starting to drink. However, research suggests that the chances of children trying alcohol or other drugs increase as they get older.

“Around the age of 9, children begin to think that alcohol may not be just for adults. By the time they are seniors, nearly 70% of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug, and more than 20% will have used a prescription drug for non-medical purposes,” according to the Substance Abuse and Administration of mental health services.

“Research shows that if we can prevent or delay the onset of alcohol or substance use until age 25, adult substance use disorder is significantly reduced,” said Reeves. “In other words, 90% of people with adult substance use disorders started using alcohol or substances as teenagers.” The program has since expanded its resources to include tools to help them continue to have conversations about underage alcohol and drug prevention beyond age 15.

“Speak Up, They Can Hear You” aims to increase parents’ awareness of the prevalence as well as the risk of alcohol and substance use among minors. By equipping parents with the knowledge, skills and confidence to prevent such behaviors, they also hope to increase parental actions to intervene in underage alcohol and substance use.

“Parents’ Night Out” educational sessions were added to educate parents and caregivers about the realities of underage alcohol and drug use. The goal is to prepare parents and loved ones to talk with children about these issues that are often difficult to address organically.

Reeves led the first of those Night Out events at Pilot Middle School in May. She met with parents to discuss the reasons why their child may start to abuse, such as grade stress, integration or appearances and their desire to escape it by using substances.

In the 11-18 age bracket, children are susceptible to peer pressure and with the addition of social media and ‘influencers’ there are more ways for these types of pressure to reach children. . Part of his Night Out message was about parents showing an interest in what their children are doing and clearly expressing their disapproval of underage alcohol or drug use to counter those influences.

Parents were encouraged to have regular discussions about drugs and alcohol, rather than having “the conversation”. Too much can be missed or glossed over if parents try to squeeze it all into one fact for heart-to-heart TV conversations.

During these more regular discussions, parents are encouraged not to use scare tactics, Reeves said the science can be scary enough. “Rather than scare your kids, tell them that alcohol and other drugs are bad for their growing brains and can make them sick,” she said. Looking at facts and science can also show children that parents can be a trusted source on these matters.

She reminded attendees that transitions from middle school to high school and then to middle school can be tricky for kids of any age. The addition of the pandemic also presented new challenges, and Reeves asked parents if they had noticed any changes over the past two years.

Parents have tools at their disposal to facilitate these discussions with their children, such as the “Talk, They Hear You” mobile application which offers training scenarios. It can be used as a resource to prepare and provide “conversation starters”, goals, possible reactions, “closures” and other useful information such as statistics on the prevalence of alcohol consumption among minors and other drugs.

To spread the message to a wider audience, the All-Stars Prevention Group hosted a community event at Veteran’s Park called Vincent’s Legacy: Kindness Day. Reeves said: “We attend these community events primarily for young people and offer kid-friendly activities like face painting to start a conversation with their parents. We share with them information about our office, the All-Stars prevention group and “Speak, they hear you”.

“We discuss the importance of starting the conversation with your youngster early and having the conversation often,” she explained. “We also encourage and discuss the importance of parental involvement in a teenager’s life.”

“Wherever we can reach parents, that’s where we will be. It all starts with the parents. The greatest protective factor for a young person is a loving and caring relationship with at least one parent or caregiver.

The Prevention Group All-Stars are volunteers who help with community events. They are parents, people in recovery and just people in our community who want to help. “We couldn’t do it without them,” Reeves said.

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