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PACT’s Community Advisory Meeting Shows Continued Need for Substance Use Prevention Programs in Pelham

Filed in Community/PACT, Events, News, Parents by on April 23, 2017 • views: 1845

Around 20 community members gathered at The Manor Club on April 20 for Pelham PACT Coalition’s Spring Community Advisory Council (CAC) meeting, a chance for the local community to come together and discuss issues impacting our youth. PACT Board Chair Kit Meyer gave brief introductory remarks, and then Coalition Director Laura Caruso gave updates on what has been happening with PACT.

PACT’s Youth Leadership Council (YLC) has been busy, planning events for the Pelham LOFT pop-up teen center, including the inaugural Field Fest event for teens, which will take place on May 13, from 6-10pm at Glover Field. Caruso and Sarah Buckley, PACT’s Youth Advocate, have been working closely with the teens on planning this event, including partnering with local businesses.

The CAC also watched a short video clip featuring Tess Darrow, a sophomore at Pelham Memorial High School who is on the PACT YLC and was recently chosen to be the New York State representative for the D.A.R.E America Youth Advisory Board (YAB). Darrow spoke passionately about her goal to make factual information about alcohol and marijuana available to her peers and about the need to identify the root causes of why so many young people turn to substances. She also briefly discussed her involvement in bringing D.A.R.E. to Siwanoy and Prospect Hill Elementary schools, and two additional high schools in Westchester County.

A majority of the meeting was spent discussing the preliminary results of PACT’s Prevention Needs Assessment (PNA) survey, which was administered in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades in February. PACT is currently working with a team that is analyzing the data in many ways. Since PACT has been collecting this data since 2009, there is significant information indicating how successful PACT has been in the last ten years at reducing the numbers of youth using alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. There are also key indicators available to the community that will allow us to target efforts and resources going forward.

In 2017, there were 585 student responses included in the survey results: 225 in 8th grade, 201 in 10th grade, and 159 in 12th grade. A slightly higher percentage of respondents were male (52%) compared with female (48%), and most of the students identified themselves as white (62%) with the next largest group being Hispanic/Latino (15%) followed by Asian (9%), Multi-racial/Other (8%), and African American (7%).

Overall, the most common substance used by Pelham students is alcohol, followed by e-vaporizers (electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vape pens, or e-hookahs), marijuana, and then cigarettes. Since 2009, there has been a decrease in the number of teens who report using alcohol or marijuana in the past 30 days, across all grade levels, which you can see in the charts below. This is a tribute to the work done by PACT and all their Coalition members over the last 10 years. However, those reduced rates are still higher, and in some cases significantly higher, than their county and national peers.

In the bar charts below, you can see, from 2009 to 2017, student non-use rates increased from 76% to 92% for 8th grade students, from 48% to 65% for 10th grade students, and from 33% to 43% for 12th grade students. However, Pelham 10th grade and 12th grade students’ non-use rates for alcohol are 65% and 43% respectively compared to the national rates for 10th graders (80%) and 12 graders (67%). For seniors, their non-use rate is significantly lower than their county peers as well (51%). Meaning, a significantly greater number of seniors in Westchester county are not drinking alcohol as compared to the seniors in Pelham.

When it comes to marijuana, there has also been a decrease in the number of Pelham students who report using. From 2009 to 2017, reported non-use has increased, which means use has decreased, for both 10th and 12th graders. In 2017, 90% of 10th graders said they did not use marijuana in the past 30 days, as compared to 82% in 2009. In 2017, 82% of 12th graders said they did not use marijuana in the past 30 days, as compared to 78% in 2009. Interestingly, that 82% number is significantly higher than the rate in 2015 (64%) as well. Unfortunately, in 10th grade that non-use rate (90%) is still less than their national peers (98%); in 12th grade that non-use rate (82%) is still less than their national peers at 94%. The comparison between Pelham 10th and 12th graders and their Westchester county peers leads to some good news, however. The 10th grade non-use rate in Pelham (90%) is higher than the County rate for 10th graders (88%); and the 12th grade non-use rate in Pelham (82%) is higher than the County rate for 12th graders (77%).

This preliminary data shows continued improvement in terms of reducing substance use in Pelham, but it also demonstrates a continued need for prevention efforts via Pelham PACT and other organizations in the area. The Community Advisory Council held a discussion about this initial data and determined several other ways PACT can splice and analyze the data in order to further target and tailor program and prevention efforts. Decisions were made to analyze the data comparing boys to girls; looking at other risky behaviors such as sexual activity; and determining which “risk factors” are related to substance use and which “protective factors” lead to the choice not to use. Armed with this level of detailed data will allow Pelham PACT, and our partner organizations including parents, the schools, police departments, and youth-serving organizations, to focus messaging, content, and outreach in the most relevant and meaningful way for our youth.

As a group, Pelham PACT Coalition’s Community Advisory Council is an invaluable resource that allows community members to bring their ideas to the table when it comes to keeping our youth safe and healthy. Many members shared personal anecdotes, offered insightful suggestions, and otherwise came together around the ways we can support and help our youth—and their parents and other adults who care about them.

In the coming weeks and months, PACT will continue to unpack this wealth of data received from the PNA survey, and will be providing more in-depth information about what teens are feeling and doing when it comes to substance use, stress, connections in the community, school work, social media, and more. Stay tuned and sign up for our email newsletter if you would like to stay informed!

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