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“We’re excited about our efforts to help young people live healthy, drug- and alcohol-free lives,” said Kari Lerch, Deputy Director of the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute. “We’re doing just that by building the capacity of local coalitions aimed at supporting the next generation of prevention leaders.”
In addition to her duties at PPI, Lerch is the Southeastern Regional Prevention Center Director for the Alliance for Wisconsin Youth (AWY), a statewide network of coalitions, individuals, and resources devoted to preventing substance abuse and behavioral health concerns.
AWY, like there many other prevention-focused coalitions PPI participates in, focuses on stopping a negative situation from ever taking place, and therefore such approaches are often highly cost-effective and better for individuals at risk of developing a substance use issue as well as society as a whole. After all, if we can deter one person from ever using harmful substances in the first place, we will prevent that individual from becoming addicted to them and potentially risking their lives and wellbeing, damaging their relationships, and tearing at the fabric of our communities.
The Community Advocates Public Policy Institute administers the AWY Southeast Region, which includes the counties of Jefferson, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington, and Kenosha—and it’s very active.
In April, members of the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (MCSAP) attended an AWY Youth Summit in East Troy to learn more about the importance of preventing drug, tobacco, and alcohol use among youth. Members committed to working on outreach efforts, including a sticker shock campaign, a public service announcement, and social media messages to support prevention.
“I’m confident that these young leaders will have a positive impact on their schools and neighborhoods,” Lerch said.
The Youth Summit was directed by the training agency Leading to Change, which encouraged attendees to build their leadership skills and find unique ways to work together. You can see just how much fun the group had in this Leading to Change-produced video of the summit.
In addition to participating in the Youth Summit, the Southeastern Region of AWY works throughout the year to strengthen local coalitions. At its most recent quarterly meeting earlier this month, members spoke about their efforts to create drug-, tobacco-, and alcohol-free proms, encourage substance abuse prevention at county fairs this summer, expand their local partnerships, and increase awareness about the dangers of substance use and misuse. Rachael Cooper, Opiate Overdose Prevention Specialist at the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and Co-Chair of MCSAP’s Prescription Drug Overdose Workgroup, presented up-to-the-minute information about the dangers of opiates and heroin, including new and lethal strains of synthetic opiates, as well as an overview of the harm reduction model to reduce drug use.
Last week, AWY members attended the 2017 Wisconsin Substance Abuse Prevention Training Conference in the Wisconsin Dells, titled “Honoring the Past, Preparing for the Future: 30 Years of Prevention Partnerships in Wisconsin.” The conference offered an array of sessions for members seeking to build their skills and knowledge as prevention experts, from learning effective messaging and meeting facilitation to acquiring new insights on Wisconsin’s alcohol environment, cannabis and cannabinoids, the father/child relationship, alcohol compliance checks, pain treatment and its impact on addiction, the kNOw Meth awareness campaign, LGBTQ individuals and addiction, and much more.
Presenters included Tammy Molter, Director of the West Allis-West Milwaukee Community Coalition, who spoke about offering universal SBIRT in schools and the essential elements of a screening program; Tracy Johnson of TTJ Groups LLC, who talked about addressing cultural competency at each step of SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework; and Kaylin Jones, MCSAP Co-Chair and Youth and Teen Coordinator for the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, and Johnson, who offered up the “blunt truth” about combating marijuana use among youth.
“AWY members were able to share their experiences and learn from other prevention practitioners during this very valuable conference,” Lerch said. “We’re going to put this information to good use in Southeastern Wisconsin.”
For more information about AWY, go to ppi.communityadvocates.net/prevention_services/alliance_for_wisconsin_youth or contact Kari Lerch at email@example.com.
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