From: Janneke Quick Sobeck
Community Wellness Director
Live Well Winona
Kids are dying. Ten years ago the average age to focus on for substance abuse prevention was 16. The tragic reality is that today some 10- to 11-year-olds struggle with chemical dependency. Let me say that again: 10 to 11-year-olds. Fifth graders!
Self-medicating results from our youth suffering from depression, peer pressure, and the inability to find someone they can trust and confide in. Parents and guardians are in the dark. The best case scenario is that they at least acknowledge the problem, but lack awareness and education about whom to contact for help. When that happens, we have failed as a community to provide timely resources, education, and support.
As a community we deny the existence of such an issue. Synthetics — what are those? Pill party — we don’t have that here. Inhaling alcohol vapors — no one does that! This is reality. These are the challenges our kids face day after day.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. We’ve seen that it also takes a community to fight substance abuse. Chemical dependency is not a battle that can be fought alone. A movement has been created here in Winona, and the momentum is building. It’s time to acknowledge that this is a valid concern, and get on board.
The Winona County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) is a coalition in its infancy, seeking widespread representation from various sectors of our community. Our alliance objectives are to build capacity and create substance abuse prevention. This coordinating body will facilitate and create through synergies. The coalition will apply for a Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant in early 2014, likely focusing on alcohol, prescription drugs, and synthetic drugs.
Over 50 people attended an ASAP town hall meeting on chemical dependency in early September to learn about local drug use, efforts to change laws around synthetic drugs, and several treatment programs such as Drug Court and Pathways. We learned that more high school kids are smoking marijuana than cigarettes. In early December, 20 individuals representing 16 different organizations met to continue the conversation, digging into what we are doing well as a community and highlighting where we need to roll up our sleeves and get serious. Emerging themes included denial, lack of awareness/education, no prevention course for “medium” risk individuals, lack of psychiatric services/providers, lack of treatment, and need for dual diagnosis of mental health and chemical dependency. Programs such as Restorative Justice and providers such as Leanne Morey, among others, are making incredible strides, yet can’t fix the community alone. And fix is indeed what we need, because we are broken.
Please consider attending the next ASAP meeting on February 5 at 5:30 p.m. in the BA Miller Auditorium at Winona Health, where we will discuss the structure of our grant application, and confirm sector representatives for our coalition.
To learn more about ASAP please visit http://www.livewellwinona.org/join-the-community/asap/ or to RSVP for our next meeting email firstname.lastname@example.org.