Last Monday the Marblehead Cares Coalition held its monthly meeting at Marblehead High School. The coalition has been formed over the past year by concerned members of the community who want to reduce the toll of underage and young adult alcohol and other drug use. In attendance were teachers, law enforcement personnel, clergy, high school students, parents, members of the school committee, local counselors and representatives from the local ambulance company and the YMCA.
Coalition Director Susan Hauck, in a previous interview with glowbass.com stated: “We need to engage the kids” in order to address the problem of substance use and abuse in this North Shore community. The Coalition has subsequently taken on as its mission a fact finding initiative. The members have decided not to assume they know what is needed in the community and is working toward gathering this information from the kids themselves.
On March 7 at 6:30 PM, a “Youth Summit” will convene at the Lynch/vanOtterloo YMCA on the Swampscott/Marblehead line. The summit hopes to involved 80-100 middle school and high school kids from the local community in a series of focus groups to find out what the kids themselves want. The Coalition has generated a comprehensive list of questions and is in the process of identifying peer leaders in the community to lead each focus group. Recognizing that discussing some of this sensitive information with adults present might serve as a barrier, the Coalition will utilize recent High School graduates and local college students as group leaders and will step aside during this process. Free pizza will also be available. Coalition founder Mark Libon, a local psychologist states that the theme of the summit is “Curiosity” and hopes that the information gathered from the students themselves will provide necessary guidance to future program initiatives.
The Coalition also plans to gather information from local parents through a web-based survey. In previous years, a similar survey resulted in 300 responses from concerned parents. The Coalition is hoping to increase this number in this year’s survey. Additional data will be gathered through another administration of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. http://www.doe.mass.edu/cnp/hprograms/yrbs/ This survey, administered every two years by the state, provides aggregate data on youth risk behavior including use of alcohol and other drugs. The most recent survey results (2007) for the Commonwealth show alcohol use among high school students decreasing year to year but over 40% of high school students reporting regular use and over a quarter reporting binge drinking. It is these numbers that are causing concern in the community. Marblehead will run its own targeted survey this year so that it may assess activities specific to its own community.