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Neighborhood Engagement Unit Community Wellness Sweep
Gloversville Police Department and Glove City Coalition
Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.
The Neighborhood Engagement Unit (NEU) is an effort of GCC under the direction of the Law Enforcement Sector. NEU brings together members and other community organizations to educate neighborhood residents of the substance misuse prevention resources that are available to them.
Our “Wellness Sweep” took place six times, targeting each ward of the city. Walking teams went door to door and talked with residents, providing them with a bag of resources and inviting them to an event where they could learn more about prevention, access resources, and participate in activities.
Two of those events were the focus of our Communities Talk project. For the two events, the entire community was invited and had access to free food, naloxone training, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, COVID-19 vaccinations, recreational activities, and live music. Youth recreation leagues also held on-site sign-ups. The GCC table provided information on ways parents can prevent underage drinking, and tobacco and drug use. In addition, we handed out an underage drinking prevention survey for parents, and the parents who filled out the survey received tamper-resistant labels to use on any alcohol bottles they have in the house.
How does underage drinking and substance misuse affect your community?
As a small semi-rural city, Gloversville still experiences substance misuse. However, recent efforts have helped reduce the rates of substance misuse. In the 2020 youth survey (administered during the pandemic), 11.1 percent of youth indicated past 30-day use of alcohol, 13.5 percent used e-cigarettes, and 10.5 percent used marijuana. Of those who drank alcohol, 26 percent indicated they did it at home with parental permission, and 26 percent did it at home without parental permission.
As a result of this data, our coalition is working to educate parents about the risk factors associated with allowing teens to drink. According to early results from the underage drinking prevention survey, some parents (7 out of 36 respondents) still consider teen drinking to be a normal part of growing up. Many (21 out of 36 respondents) did not know there is a social host law in the city. Many families claim to have clear rules about alcohol use, but few have discussed it in the last year. And, given that 70.3 percent of our youth indicated a low perception of harm related to alcohol and drugs, we are working to educate youth on the harms associated with substance use.
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
- Awareness and enforcement of social host laws) to support prevention of underage drinking
Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?
The entire coalition was involved in the planning and implementation of NEU, with direct leadership from the Chief of Police. Coalition organizations helped stuff bags of prevention materials to be delivered and offered at the events, and also provided staff to walk door to door with police to start the conversation about substance misuse prevention.
Our intended audience was residents of the city ward being targeted each time, and the event was open to the entire city, allowing participants to visit the event site tables and access the resources. Youth were involved as participants but were not involved in the planning due to COVID-19.
Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?
- Prevention-related webinars
- Prevention videos, such as College Drinking: Prevention Perspectives
- StopAlcoholAbuse.gov website
- StopAlcoholAbuse.gov What’s New email newsletter
- Communities Talk planning guides
Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?
Yes. We may have had more participation by community members visiting tables if it weren’t for COVID-19. Also, we couldn’t engage youth in the planning. We promoted it as an outdoor event and socially distanced the tables, and we had our planning meetings virtually via Zoom.
What other challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?
- Lack of interest from the community
- Inexperience hosting Communities Talk activities
- Change in organizational structure or staff
How did you overcome these challenges?
While we experienced a change in staffing that was difficult at first, the staff ultimately became very engaged in the community planning for NEU.
We also would have liked more participation in the underage drinking prevention survey at the event sites, as most adults were not willing to fill out the survey. To increase survey participation, we are still administering the survey through school events such as at basketball games (tabling out in the hall), during freshman orientations, and through the PTA.
What are your next steps?
- Host follow-up meetings or activities
- 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)