October is Prevention Month!
by Libby Baker, SAPC West Coordinator
Going to the doctor’s office for annual physical is considered preventative care. If the test results show high blood sugar but it isn’t quite yet diabetes, there are many options that that person can choose from to prevent diabetes from happening. These preventative measures are generally accepted throughout the world of medicine so the public sees it all as fact. These preventative measures for physical health and well-being are also usually covered (or at least partially covered) by the individual’s insurance. Take our insurance here at LUK, for example; we can apply for a gym membership reimbursement each year. It may not cover all of my $20 a month Planet Fitness membership, but it covers more than half.
But when it comes to substance use prevention, the options are less well known and also viewed more critically. One of these options is the use of scare tactics, which are generally not great long term solutions. This includes the drunk driver car accidents reenactments that come up around prom season to keep high school students from drinking and driving. Alternatively, there are the styles of substance use prevention that the CES program here at LUK uses. We use the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) that was developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which uses data to determine what services are needed in each community. This flexibility is helpful since what works for one community may not work for them all.
LUK's Substance Abuse Prevention Team the Gardner Community Action Team (GCAT), the Massachusetts Opioid Abuse Prevention Coalition (MOAPC), and East and West divisions of the Substance Abuse Prevention Collaborative (SAPC). SAPC East covers Fitchburg, Leominster, Clinton, Sterling, and Princeton, while SAPC West covers Gardner, Athol, Phillipston, Royalston, Templeton, and Westminster.
The SPF focuses in on the risk and protective factors in a community that could lead to a substance use disorder. The risk factors include early aggressive behavior, peer substance abuse, lack of parental involvement, and drug availability. Here at LUK, the SAPCs, MOAPC, and GCAT all work together to reduce the risk factors in a community and increase the protective factors. These protective factors include self-control, anti-drug policies, parental monitoring, and strong community programs that promote good choices and make it harder to access substances. These programs have taken several different forms over the years, including sticker shock campaigns to remind adults about social host and liability consequences. The sticker shock campaign involves youth putting stickers on the paper bag that will contain alcohol when someone buys it from the participating liquor store that say “Furnishing alcohol to minors is illegal” along with the fine that comes along if a person is caught doing so. This also serves as a partnership with the youth, liquor stores, law enforcement, and community members.
Other outreach includes social norming campaigns, which remind youth that the norm is actually not to drink, which they may not realize, especially with the conflicting messages they receive from both peers and the media. School-based programs like Guiding Good Choices and All Stars work with parents and students to promote the protective factors in the community. LUK's Youth Development services also support a community's protective factors. These programs help develop self-esteem and leadership skills in youth, and work to reduce bullying and violence.
October is Substance Abuse Prevention Month, and we will be featuring a weekly post about various aspects of Prevention. Check back next week for information on why Compliance Checks are so important in your community!