Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse (NASA) Youth Summit '14: Greenfield, IN
Located just 10 miles east of Indianapolis, Greenfield, Indiana, is a mix of suburbs and farmland, middle class demographics, and strong rural values. Yet it deals with many of the same substance abuse issues that affect cities and towns everywhere. When the Indiana Prevention Resource Center Survey of Hancock County youth revealed its spring 2013 data on alcohol consumption, binge drinking, and other substance abuse among 6th to 12th graders, Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse (NASA) made underage drinking a key focus of its Youth Summit ’14. A Town Hall Meeting–type workshop on underage drinking, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), was incorporated within the larger Youth Summit. This workshop reflected SAMHSA’s purposes in sponsoring Town Hall Meetings: To raise awareness about underage drinking and to engage communities in identifying and implementing effective solutions.
The second annual NASA Youth Summit brought together 105 student representatives from the county’s middle and high schools to learn about the effects of substance abuse. The event was planned, promoted, and organized by NASA’s Youth Council members, who wanted their peers to hear about the dangers of substance abuse from those who know firsthand about the issues. Youth Summit ’14 featured a daylong agenda of expert presentations and workshops that focused on alcohol, marijuana, and prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse as well as current drug trends.
The workshop on underage drinking featured a wheelchair-bound local police officer, paralyzed while on duty because of a drunk driver. The officer’s story provided a compelling illustration of just one of the consequences of the decision to drink alcohol. All students attending the summit then broke into small groups led by Youth Council members to discuss and provide input on questions including:
- How prevalent do you believe underage drinking is with your peers?
- Why do young people drink underage?
- Where do young people get the alcohol?
- What harm to you feel can come from drinking underage?
- What do you think can be done to stop/prevent underage drinking in Hancock County?
A surprising close to the summit came when the county’s Underage Drinking Task Force “stormed” into the room in a mock raid, treating the summit as if it were an underage drinking party. The scene was a powerful and memorable demonstration of what will happen when the Task Force arrives at the scene of an underage drinking party in Hancock County.
MEASURES OF SUCCESS
According to NASA Executive Director Tim Retherford, there are numerous quantifiable and anecdotal measures of the workshop’s success. Incorporating the underage drinking “Town Hall Meeting” into the broader Youth Summit ’14 provided access to a population of youth who would not have participated in a separate meeting and―as a result―the summit collected input that will be invaluable going forward. Student evaluations indicated that 100 percent of attendees left the summit having learned new information about substance abuse and contained specific comments about the impact of the mock raid. “We would love these youth to go back and, over the next couple of years, be the positive influence in the school,” Retherford said.
Student suggestions from the small-group discussions—such as the need for increased parental supervision, more weekend police patrols, curfews, and harsher punishments—will inform the review of NASA’s logic model to address underage drinking. Members of the Youth Council are also using the information to focus on a positive approach to substance abuse prevention activities and projects in individual schools and countywide.