The Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery was in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Partner Spotlight last month for being “prevention rock stars in their community.”
Being honored in the spotlight is no small thing, said Charlotte Reeves, the county’s community outreach coordinator. “I think this is an important milestone because they recognize that the work has begun in our county. I am very proud of this award because it takes a lot of work and coordination to get to this point.”
The administration was established by Congress in 1992 to provide leadership, support programs, and provide resources to steer national policy toward actions based on the knowledge that “behavioural health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment works.” is and people are recovering.”
Citing the good work of the Surry County team, the agency cited the goal of creating a continuum of care that “removes barriers for those seeking treatment and recovery.” Programs like Ride the Road to Recovery are among the most visible of these services. It provides transportation to the doctor, for treatment, or to court, so not taking it doesn’t have to be an impediment to recovery—it can be removed as an impediment.
The Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery has been credited with recently delivering the campaign message, “Talk, They Hear You,” via social media posts, podcasts and newspaper outreach columns. Also for conducting community wide training including an initial staff training session at Pilot Mountain Middle School and Surry Central High School’s Addiction Awareness Week.
The Speak They Hear You campaign aims to reduce underage and other substance use among youth by providing caregivers with the information and resources they need to address these issues in children early and often.
Parents have a significant influence on their children’s decisions to experiment with alcohol and drugs. The program materials tell parents, “Even though it doesn’t look like it, when parents talk about underage drinking and drug use, their children hear them.”
Talking, They Hear You originally focused on helping parents with children ages 9 to 15 discourage young people from starting drinking. However, research suggests that the likelihood of children trying alcohol or other drugs increases as they get older.
“Around the age of 9, children start thinking that maybe alcohol isn’t just for adults. By the time they are seniors, nearly 70% of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have used an illicit drug, and more than 20% will have used a prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose,” according to the journal Substance Abuse and Administration of Psychiatric Services .
“Research shows that if we can prevent or delay the onset of alcohol or substance use until after age 25, substance use disorder in adults will be significantly reduced,” Reeves said. “In other words, 90% of people with a substance use disorder in adulthood started using alcohol or drugs in their teens.” Since then, the program has expanded its resources with tools to help them get beyond age 15.
Speak, They Hear You aims to raise parents’ awareness of the prevalence and risk of underage alcohol or substance use. By equipping parents with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to prevent such behaviors, they also hope to increase parental action to intervene in underage alcohol and substance use.
“Parent Evenings” educational events have been added to educate parents and carers about the realities of underage alcohol and drug use. The goal is to prepare parents and loved ones to talk to children about these issues, which are often difficult to address organically.
Reeves led the first of these Night Out events at Pilot Middle School in May. She met with parents to discuss why their child might engage in abuse, such as B. Stress from grades, adjustment, or appearance and their desire to escape these by using substances.
In the 11-18 age group, children are vulnerable to peer pressure and with the addition of social media and “influencers” there are more opportunities for this type of pressure to reach children. Part of their Night Out message had to do with parents taking an interest in what their children are doing and expressing their disapproval of underage alcohol or drug use to counteract these influences.
Parents were encouraged to talk about drugs and alcohol regularly, rather than “having the conversation”. Too much can be overlooked or glossed over when parents try to wrap it all up in a heart-to-heart conversation made for TV.
During these more regular conversations, parents are encouraged not to use fear tactics, Reeves said science can be scary enough. “Rather than scaring your kids, tell them that alcohol and other drugs are bad for their growing brains and can make them sick,” she said. Drawing on facts and science can also show children that parents can be a trusted source on these issues.
She reminded attendees that the transition from middle school to high school and then to college can be difficult for kids of all ages. Adding the pandemic also presented new challenges, and Reeves asked the parents if they’d noticed any changes over the past two years.
Parents have tools available to have these conversations with their children, such as: B. The mobile app “Talk, They Hear You” which provides practice scenarios. It can be used as a resource to prepare, providing conversation starters, goals, possible responses, “closures” and other helpful information such as statistics on the prevalence of underage alcohol use and other drug use.
To spread the message to a wider audience, the All-Stars Prevention Group hosted a community event at Veteran’s Park called Vincent’s Legacy: Kindness Day. Reeves said, “We attend these community events primarily for youth and offer kid-friendly activities like face painting to connect with their parents. We share information with them about our office, All-Stars Prevention Group and Talk, They Hear You.
“We discuss the importance of starting the conversation with your youth early and having the conversation often,” she explained. “We also encourage and discuss the importance of parental involvement in a young person’s life.”
“Anywhere we can reach parents, we will be. Everything starts with the parents. The greatest protective factor for a young person is a loving and nurturing relationship with at least one parent or significant other.”
The All-Stars Prevention Group is made up of volunteers who help with community events. They are parents, people in recovery, and just people in our community who want to help. “We couldn’t do it without them,” Reeves said.