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Keeping our Communities Safe from Substance Abuse

Hosted by: City of Greenacres, Florida

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Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.

As an assistant professor at Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing (CEL CON) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), I have conducted research and prevention activities that focus on substance use, misuse, and addiction activities. My topic areas are typically opioids, cannabis, ethanol, and kratom. For one of the activities, which took place on March 8, 2023, I created and led a presentation titled “Keeping Our Communities Safe from Substance Abuse” at the Greenacres Community Center in West Palm Beach. The presentation was attended by students and parents and was followed by a Q&A session on substance abuse-related topics. I coordinated this event together with the center. FAU CEL CON also reported on this event, and you can find the link to their newsletter here.

I also distributed flyers and materials about alcohol and drinking among young people during the Make-A-Wish Walk/Run event held on February 4, 2023, at Markham Park in Broward County, Florida. This event has also been included in our FAU CEL CON Community Engagement Report for 2022–2023, which you can find here. In addition to our publication on cannabinoids and deaths from opioid use among older populations, I have been invited to make several presentations on substance misuse in 2023. The list of my invited presentations is available at https://nursing.fau.edu/directory/suriaga/index.php.

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How does alcohol and other drug misuse affect your community?

Alcohol affects our community, particularly in Southeast Florida. In 2022, I reported that approximately 4,200 people died from alcohol-related deaths in Florida alone. Among them were college-age individuals. 

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Which prevention strategy(ies), as defined by SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, best fit your Communities Talk activity?

  • Community-Based Process Strategy - focuses on enhancing the capacity of the community to address AOD issues through organizing, planning, collaboration, coalition building, and networking.
  • Information Dissemination Strategy - focuses on improving awareness and knowledge of the effects of AOD issues on communities and families through “one-way” communication with the audience such as speaking engagements, health fairs, and distribution of print materials.
  • Education Strategy – focuses on “two-way” communication between the facilitator and participants and aims to improve life/social skills such as decision making, refusal skills, and critical analysis.
  • Alternative Strategy – focuses on redirecting individuals from potentially problematic situations and AOD use by providing constructive and healthy events/activities.
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What goal(s) did you hope to accomplish with your Communities Talk activity?

  • Hold meetings or discussion groups on alcohol and/or other drug misuse prevention.
  • Develop strategic plans to reduce and prevent alcohol and/or other drug misuse.
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Did you accomplish your goal(s)?


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

  • Needed additional resources to conduct activity
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How did you overcome these challenges?

I ask our college to provide additional travel funds to disseminate substance use and misuse findings. I exerted efforts to drive to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) office and delivered a presentation on cannabis and its neural effects and healthcare implications. Collaboration and partnership with other organizations worked well with me in this education dissemination campaign on substance use.

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What are your next steps?

Presenter in front of PowerPoint Presentation
  • Create new action groups to tackle specific issues raised during our Communities Talk activity
  • Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community
  • Conduct research efforts to learn more about issues in our community
  • I am proposing that a study on kratom (an emerging substance) be conducted, since more than 500 people died here in Florida from it during the COVID-19 pandemic, and most of these deaths involved co-use of other substances.
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If you’ve conducted Communities Talk activities in prior years, how has your repeated participation contributed to progress in achieving your prevention goals?

My repeated participation provided essential experience in expanding collaboration and making this project appealing to the community stakeholders. I have made considerable progress since several organizations approached me to share my research with them or our community. I was surprised that Yale University invited me to do a lecture on substance use in the older population. I think my work on this topic is attracting interest among our academic and local community. Our publication on cannabinoid-related mortality was featured in more than a dozen media outlets, and it is rewarding to know that people are paying attention to it.

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Organizations that conduct Communities Talk activities often involve other organizations in the planning and execution of events. Please indicate which type(s) of organizations you involved in your activity planning.

  • Faith-based based organizations
  • Secondary schools
  • Local chapters of national organizations
  • State and local government agencies (e.g., public health departments)
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Which of the following best describes the primary audience(s) for your Communities Talk activity?

  • Youth
  • Parents
  • Teachers or other education staff
  • Prevention specialists and volunteers
  • Doctors, nurses, or other health care professionals
  • Healthcare providers
  • The media
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How did you reach and engage your primary audience(s) to encourage them to participate in your activity?

I use relatable language and am mindful of the stigma attached to substance use. I inspired students to share information with their friends and loved ones. Some students even approached me to join the research or the walk and to distribute flyers. Even our Sigma members connected me with other community organizations to deliver a talk on substance use and misuse.

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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
  • Communities Talk planning guides

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