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Wadena County Youth Substance Misuse

Hosted by: Wadena County Public Health

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Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.

We held a presentation and Q&A about underage drinking and alcohol misuse, and the association of substance misuse to adverse childhood experiences. We distributed SAMHSA’s “Talk. They Hear You.” and Search Institute asset-building materials. 

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How does underage drinking and substance misuse affect your community?

Wadena County is a rural county in Minnesota with high poverty rates, including generational poverty. There is a general need for continued prevention efforts, as alcohol remains the most common substance used in our area. Much work has been done through past grant funding, although it has become more difficult to continue activities without funding.  

With support from the Minnesota Department of Health, we've been able to look at substance use rates and the association these rates have with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Our schools are highly engaged in this area and are using Social Emotional Learning curriculum to support young people as well as educating all staff about ACEs, mental health support services in the schools, and referrals to agencies for additional support. 

We are concerned about other substances as well. For instance, Minnesota is a medical marijuana state, and many of our community members are trying to push recreational marijuana use. In spring 2022, Minnesota schools will take the Minnesota Student Survey, and we are very interested in what our youth report on substance misuse as we consider how the pandemic may have affected use, perception of harm, and other topics. 

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What goal(s) did you hope to accomplish with your Communities Talk activity?

  • Reduce prevalence of underage drinking and other substances in community
  • Create an ongoing conversation about underage drinking and substance use prevention in the community
  • Foster collaboration between community stakeholders for continued underage drinking and substance use prevention activities
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Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?

Local schools and youth mental health providers helped with the planning of our event to generate a “buzz” around the community. We had parents, youth, healthcare workers, and community leaders present.  

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Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?

  • Prevention-related webinars
  • StopAlcoholAbuse.gov website
  • Communities Talk planning guides
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Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?

Not necessarily. We provided attendees with masks and hand sanitizer, and we held our event in a space large enough to allow social distancing 

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

  • Lack of interest from the community
  • We had a community member also request that our presentation and Q&A be available online. However, we received this request late and were unable to live stream.
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How did you overcome these challenges?

We were able to provide those individuals who were unable to make the in-person event with printed resources at a later date. In the future, we would like to have a live and virtual event available for all to attend. 

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What are your next steps?

  • Host follow-up meetings or activities
  • Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community

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