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Communities Talk: Hudson County Town Hall Meeting for the Prevention of Underage Drinking

Hosted by: Hudson County Coalition for A Drug Free Community

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How does underage drinking and substance misuse affect your community?

Underage drinking is a huge area of concern in our community in Hudson County, New Jersey. Our coalition, the Hudson County Coalition for a Drug-Free Community, performs an annual survey of Hudson County middle and high school students to learn about substance misuse and perceptions (the Hudson County Youth Survey). The 2018 youth survey found that out of approximately 2,800 students, 8.9% of students reported that they had used alcohol in the past 30 days. Underage drinking can be normalized by parents, but 88% of youth reported that their parents would disapprove of them drinking while underage. We’re also seeing vaping and the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) become concerns in our community.

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How did a Communities Talk event help you address those issues?

  • Mobilized coalition members or other stakeholders
  • Engagement with local government leaders and business owners to consider policy changes such as social hosting laws or restaurant worker trainings
  • Educated youth and parents
  • Built community cohesiveness and support for our efforts
  • Created an opportunity to share resources and practices with other community stakeholders
  • Helped plan future prevention efforts
  • Made making good health behavior choices fun and engaging
  • Raised awareness of substance abuse and/or underage drinking issues in our community
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Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?

  • Prevention-related webinars
  • Communities Talk website
  • Communities Talk planning guides
  • Communities Talk toolkits
  • Communities Talk social media content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)
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How did your event make an impact on underage drinking in your community?

Our event included informational workshops for parents and caregivers and alternative activities for youth. For parents and caregivers, we offered a “Hidden in Plain Sight” workshop (the workshop shows a “typical” youth bedroom and sheds light on signs of substance use that could be hidden in plain sight in a bedroom); a presentation about alcohol poisoning; and a panel discussion that included law enforcement (school resource officer), a school assistance coordinator, a member of the recovery community, and recovery counselors who work with youth who are in recovery from alcohol use. Youth participated in a “fatal visions” activity, using impairment goggles to understand the danger of navigating basic tasks while under the influence of alcohol.

We distributed information to parents and youth during the event. Parents received resources about how to discuss substance use and misuse with their children, and youth received resources about the effects of alcohol on brain development, social effects of alcohol misuse, and risks of e-cigarettes and vaping.

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What other challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?

  • Lack of awareness of our event or organization
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How did you overcome these challenges?

We advertised the event by sharing an event flyer in community newspapers, posting information on our social media platforms, sending the information through mailing lists, and sharing event details with the community networking association. We (the Hudson County Coalition) are part of a community network association where Hudson County service providers meet monthly to discuss and promote various events and happenings throughout the county. The association has over 300 members, and is an incredible resource for us to connect with staff who work in our county with youth and family service organizations. We promoted our Communities Talk event during the association’s monthly meeting, provided event flyers to association members for distribution, and sent an email blast to the association’s membership group for those who couldn’t attend the monthly meeting.  

We also conducted community outreach activities and shared the event flyer with alcohol vendors in the community, as we also promote responsible alcohol vendor initiatives like carding patrons and training servers and sellers in appropriate alcohol management techniques. 

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What are your next steps?

  • Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community
  • Support new prevention policies, legislation, or social ordinances
  • Create a public education campaign to raise awareness and/or change behaviors around underage drinking (i.e., create PSAs and other promotional materials)

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