Morgan County Partnership takes new steps to help youth
The Morgan County Partnership has been meeting regularly to determine how to help young people with substance abuse issues and suicide prevention.
Morgan County Partnership Director Megan Scott said Morgan County had 50 overdose calls to the 911 Dispatch Center in the last two years.
They spanned all ages. There was a significant increase in calls that were considered suicide-related by the State Poison Center.
Deputy Sheriff Kevin Barney, the school Prevention Resource Officer (PRO), said over 75% of the overdoses were due to recreational use of drugs, including cocaine and prescription medications, as well as alcohol poisoning.
A prescription drug safety tool kit will be given to patients discharged from War Memorial Hospital to help them properly use and store prescription medications, Scott said.
Hospital community relations director and task force member Lyn Goodwin wrote a grant for the kits.
“A lot of overdoses happen by accident,” Scott said.
A 2011 Pride Survey of Morgan County students in grades 6-12 showed that annual alcohol and tobacco use rates had decreased somewhat compared to a comparable survey in 2004.
However, the percentage of local teens who reported using alcohol, illicit drugs and smokeless tobacco is still higher than the national average.
The number of teens responding that they had thought about suicide is also a concern.
The Partnership’s goals for the next year are to increase mentor opportunities for youth, create a safe after-school haven for teens and increase opportunities for local youth to be taught coping skills.
They plan to support and help expand existing programs like PASS and Big Brothers & Big Sisters, and organize mentors for small groups of teens.
Developing a center for older teens that was open after-school and on Friday and Saturday nights was important since the Boys & Girls Club serves mostly middle school teens, Scott said.
Funding is needed for the center for older teens. A location, staff and activities are needed, as well as a transportation plan.
To improve coping skills, students could share their biggest stressors with each other in a safe setting, possibly with a facilitator. Coping classes could be offered to parents, too. Music and exercise could be explored as stress relief.
The group is still raising awareness of the “building blocks for youth success,” which they previously called “assets.”
They’re working now on reading, kids having positive relationships with adults and children bonding with schools.
A pilot program was launched in one fourth grade class at Warm Springs Intermediate School to increase positive character traits, youth development and life skills.
Guest speakers worked with kids on team-building, self-esteem, listening skills, coping skills, dealing with bullying, solar power, movement, nutrition, animal care and safety and terrariums and ecosystems.
Several mentors worked one-on-one with students who needed more attention.
Fourth graders showed improved behavior and positive character traits, fewer referrals and discipline problems and more respect for others, Scott said.
They hope to expand the program to all fifth graders this school year.
Other Partnership programs include a new anti-bullying club at the Catawba Club Apartments, bullying prevention clubs at the high school and middle school, a countywide bullying reporting system for schools, plus the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) club, Teen Court and the Too Good for Drugs program.
They also help sponsor the prescription medication drop-off program.
Scott said substance abuse is a community issue. They hope to get more people involved, as positive role models for youth and helping with their efforts.