Our Lives Begin to End the Day We Become Silent…

 

As many of us have today off to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I was reminded by his quote:

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We focus on our work at hand, whether it be in the program that we are implementing in a school or the community-wide initiative that we plan for, and are silent when opportunities for advocacy present themselves.

Being vocal can include setting up a meeting with your Senator or Congressman, which the CADCA’s 26th annual National Leadership Forum will provide resources and support. CADCA also offers a Strategizer: Guidelines for Advocacy: Changing Policies and Laws to Create Safer Environments for Youth.

While it is important to have those conversations with elected officials, our responsibility for advocacy doesn’t end there. Too often we get bogged down with the notion that the only conversations that matter are those of individuals in high offices. Speaking about what you do and the changes you are trying to make should be a daily occurrence.

In a conversation with a co-worker at Macy’s (a job I’ve enjoyed since college), she said that should she be diagnosed with cancer, she would just smoke marijuana instead of using doctor-recommended chemicals, because according to her, “it doesn’t make sense to take poison to make you healthy”. It provided me with a wonderful opportunity to provide information and education in an environment outside of what is typically considered a prevention environment.

As you enjoy this holiday, please keep in mind that while the day may be free from our profession, prevention work is an everyday part of life.

When the voices of the opposition become louder, don’t fall silent – speak prevention, live prevention, be prevention.

It is not just your life that you are saving, but the lives of those you encounter along the way.

Have a question, or comment, please let me know! This blog is dedicated to those who work or volunteer in substance abuse prevention and health promotion and your feedback is valuable.

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My Prevention Journey

My Introduction to Prevention
For most of my life, I have been engaged in substance abuse prevention efforts. It began in middle school, when my guidance counselor recommended that I become involved with our school’s drug-free group, the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Awareness (IDAA). One of the collaborative components of IDAA was an annual weekend, which brought together up to ten students from each school district in the tri-county area. In addition to learning about prevention, attendees also had the opportunity to engage and network (although for middle school, it was really just hanging out) with one another. This is were my prevention connections began.

Prevention in High School
IDAA led to the county-wide high school group, Allen County Teens Improving our Neighborhoods (ACTION). The ACTION coordinators understood the importance of collaboration, not only locally, but beyond our tri-county service area. Through ACTION, I had the amazing opportunity to engage with state and nationwide organizations, such as Youth to Youth International and Ohio Teen Institute (OTI). Throughout my adolescents, I knew that my profession would be based within the sphere of social service, but it was during my time in high school, being involved with ACTION and OTI, that I found my calling for prevention.

Hancock County Community Partnership Logo
My College Path & First Prevention Job

After graduation from high school, I had to make a choice of degrees. In order to best obtain my Ohio Certified Prevention Specialist (OCPS) credential, I knew my degree needed to be in a social service area. I landed on Psychology. Upon graduation from The Ohio State University, I had the opportunity to return home and begin working for Century Health, Inc., a local substance abuse and mental health treatment agency, which also provided prevention services in Hancock County (Findlay, OH and the surrounding area). It is here where my passion for prevention became a profession. As a Prevention Educator, I spent most of my days either involved in coalition work through the initiatives of the Hancock County Community Partnership or in classrooms providing students, grades K-12, with education related to topics such as tobacco, alcohol, exercise, and healthy eating. I spent my evenings and weekends engaging with the Hancock Addiction Prevention Program for Youth (HAPPY) Youth Staff and the Hancock County Teen Institute.

Parents Who Host logo
Drug Free Action Alliance

After two years at Century Health, I felt a need to return to Columbus. Through my engagement with the Statewide Prevention Coalition Association (SPCA), I was familiar with the statewide agency, Ohio Parents for Drug Free Youth, now Drug Free Action Alliance (DFAA). My work at DFAA began with the Coalition Against Meth, but what is most notable was directing Parents Who Host, Lose the Most: Don’t be a party to teenage drinking. Through Parents Who Host, I was able to connect with individuals and community groups throughout the nation. Under my leadership, the program was implemented in all 50 states, most US territories, and several other countries. As needs continued to develop around social hosting, I was also involved in the development of BUZZKILL: Serve Under 21 and the Party’s Over. Through my time at DFAA, I also participated in the development of Drug Free 24/7, the Ohio Youth-Led Prevention Network, and created the Problem Gambling Resource Center.

The ATOD Prevention Group

In 2010, Ohio was awarded a Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) State Incentive Grant (SIG). As part of the grant, certified prevention professionals were needed to provide training and technical assistance for communities working to build capacity related to substance abuse among 18-25 year olds. I was contacted to serve as a trainer and because the scope of work extended beyond my responsibilities at DFAA, I became an independent contractor and founded The ATOD Prevention Group. In 2015, it was time to fully focus on The ATOD Prevention Group, and provide an array of services, which extended beyond what I could offer at DFAA.

Have a question, or comment, please let me know! This blog is dedicated to those who work or volunteer in substance abuse prevention and health promotion and your feedback is valuable.

Americans are Drinking Themselves to Death

A recent article in the Washington Post, Americans are drinking themselves to death at record rates, demonstrates the rising trend of alcohol-related deaths. Societal influences encourage prevention professionals to focus on prescription drug and heroin abuse, and while that is important, according to the CDC, alcohol deaths surpass both prescription pain medication and heroin deaths combined.

The article goes on to theorize reasons for the trend. Per capita, American’s are drinking at higher rates and women are catching up with men in average consumption. Another possibility is the confusing information related to the potential benefits of drinking for cardiovascular health.

According to the article, “One way to rein in problem drinking would be to simply raise federal alcohol taxes, which are currently at historically low levels.” An older Washington Post article, Our booze is too cheap and it’s literally killing us goes into additional detail about the reasons as to why alcohol is killing us. “Higher taxes make alcohol more expensive. More expensive alcohol makes people drink less of it. And when people are drinking less, they’re less likely to suffer costly health problems or do stupid things like drive drunk.”

Based on these and other data points, alcohol taxes and other public policy strategies are vitally important for saving lives, however it is often difficult to know what approaches to take and what partners to make.

The alcohol policy conferences are a series that, from its outset in 1981, have been a forum for researchers, community practitioners, and public officials to meet and exchange findings, explore evidence-based solutions, and consider adoption of policies aimed at minimizing risks associated with alcohol use.

You are invited to participate in AP17, April 6-8, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. For additional information and to register, visit AlcoholPolicyConference.org.

It is time to turn back the growing trend of alcohol-related deaths. Success can be had and change will be most effective when working in collaborative, coordinated efforts.