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A Community Conversation: So. Hadley Youth Substance Use

Hosted by: South Hadley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition

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Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.

The South Hadley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition held a Community Conversation on our youth and substance misuse. The event was held at our new senior center in the middle of town on a Monday evening. The discussion was led by a moderator (our town’s public health nurse), and there were four professionals on the panel. The superintendent of South Hadley (SH) Schools, the SH chief of police, an emergency pediatric specialist from our local hospital, and a coordinator for Hampshire HOPE, a county-wide coalition focused on the impacts of opioid misuse in our communities. There was local data shared with the audience, then the panel spoke to their concerns and offered advice and resources. Questions were permitted, and the discussion was followed by free Narcan training. Resource tables were set up by the coalition, the local tobacco prevention specialist, and the district attorney’s office. The entire event was recorded by our local cable television station for later broadcasting. We have a Facebook page that was used to advertise the event. Advertising was placed in the local newspaper twice prior to the event.

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How does alcohol and other drug misuse affect your community?

Presenter at a podium

The Chief of Police in South Hadley, Massachusetts, directly requested that the South Hadley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition plan a panel discussion about youth substance use in town. Our latest Prevention Needs Assessment Survey data (April 2023) shows that although the past 30-day alcohol use by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in our town was as low as 12 percent during the 2021 pandemic, that level has returned to 18 percent (the level in 2019). We are grateful that this is less than the county level of 20 percent, but we clearly need to help the community see the trend. The Community Conversation: SH Youth Substance Use event we held on June 5 was our reply to the rising data. We hosted four panelists to answer questions from the community. We had resource tables, including the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, offering materials and information that highlighted the Social Host Laws regarding alcohol and cannabis. The high school culinary program baked treats for the audience, and the local cable television station taped it for future viewing.

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

  • 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.
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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.
  • Build coalitions with other agencies or programs 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?

  • Lack of interest from the community
  • Inexperience hosting Communities Talk activities
  • Other: Sadly, June may not be the best time to get caregivers to attend an in-person event.
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How did you overcome these challenges?

There was concern that the timing might make the attendance less than ideal. In order to address that we reached out to our membership for a plan. We were fortunate to have the local cable television station available to record our panel discussion and Narcan training so we can post it on the Coalition website, and the School District website, and the cable station can replay it. there is interest in hosting this kind of Community Conversation in a different sight and during a different month in the 2023-2024 school year.

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What are your next steps?

Resource table
  • Host follow-up meetings or activities
  • Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community
  • 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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If you’ve conducted Communities Talk activities in prior years, how has your repeated participation contributed to progress in achieving your prevention goals?

Although the coalition has participated before, there was a new group of members tasked with taking on this event. There is the expectation that hosting a similar event next year will be easier and better attended. 

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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
  • Law enforcement
  • Youth-led organizations
  • Secondary schools
  • 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?

  • Parents
  • Prevention specialists and volunteers
  • Youth leaders (e.g., coaches, parks and recreation personnel, and scouting leaders)
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How did you reach and engage your primary audience(s) to encourage them to participate in your activity?

The target audience was the caregivers of youth ages 10 to 18. All of the schools in the district advertised the event. It was advertised in the local weekly newspaper and on the coalition’s Facebook page two weeks prior. The flyer was widely shared through the coalition membership mailings as well. Questions were welcome from the audience at any time during the panel discussion. A microphone was provided for the ease of hearing the questions in the event space.

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

Participants watching panel discussion
  • Prevention-related webinars
  • SAMHSA’s Event Planner
  • StopAlcoholAbuse.gov website
  • The webinars were a great guide, the event planner help us stay on track and the success stories inspired us.

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