SETTING THE STAGE … Taylor Jessing from the Defiance County Health Department shared substance use and abuse data collected by each of the respective counties. (PHOTO BY AMY WENDT, STAFF)
By: Amy Wendt
On Thursday, February 23, 2023, Healthy Choices Caring Communities (HC3), in partnership with Defiance, Henry, and Williams County Health Departments and their prevention coalitions, hosted the Regional Substance Use Prevention Breakfast: A Community Conversation at the Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center in Archbold.
HC3 is a Fulton County coalition working to reduce underage substance use, including alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, opiates, and prescription drugs.
According to HC3 Program Director, Beth Thomas, who also serves as Director of Community Education and Engagement, this is the new event for this year.
The purpose of the event was to inform all community stakeholders, the people who are involved in other work within the communities, to understand what the issues are and to be aware of regional efforts being made at the four county and regional levels, to address youth substance use.
The event also served as an opportunity to re-engage and recruit additional potential members to our coalitions and health department efforts.
Thomas noted, “We want to celebrate what we’re doing well; we want to figure out where the gaps are; and we really want a strong call to action. What can we do better?
Of the four county collaboration, Thomas noted, “We (HC3) were going to host this event. Then we got to talking at the coalition that there are no borders to our county.”
“There are no gates to prevent our children from going from one area to another. We really felt that we should do this as a region, so we reached out to our counterparts in the other three counties (Defiance, Henry, and Williams) and they were all excited and on board for hosting this event.”
The event was at full house attendance and the morning began with a breakfast followed by programming led by each of the local Health Departments as well as HC3.
Taylor Jessing, Health Promotion Specialist from the Defiance County Health Department “Set the Stage” by sharing substance use and abuse data collected by each of the respective counties in their most recent Community Health Assessments (CHA).
The data in the CHA is self-reported by the youth and adults completing collection surveys and then generalized to the county population.
In Jessing’s presentation, it was noted that based on the (CHA) data, current substance use in 6th-grade to 12th-grade youth is as follows:
-Current Alcohol Use – Defiance 18%, Fulton 7%, Henry 14%, and Williams 8%.
-Current Cigarette Use – Defiance 6%, Fulton 3%, Henry 3% and Williams 3%
-Current E-Cigarette Use – Defiance County 9%, Fulton 16%, Henry 11%, Williams 15%
-Current Marijuana Use – Defiance County 7%, Fulton County 6%, Henry County 7%, Williams County 8%
Bethany Coutz, Program Coordinator for the Williams County Health Department, then followed with an engaging prevention overview noting that prevention helps people develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to make good choices or change harmful behaviors.
It was further noted in Coutz’ presentation that “prevention is all about the community” and everyone has a role in prevention including youth, parents, schools, law enforcement, businesses, youth who serve, substance abuse counselors, media, healthcare, civic/volunteer organizations, faith-based organizations, and the government.
Health Promotion Specialists from the Defiance County Health Department, Brian Heil, Taylor Jessing, and Kaitlynn Antigo followed with their presentation “Hidden in Plain Sight: Success Through Collaboration,” where they shared about the DCHD Hidden in Plain Sight (HIPS) display which is a mock teen bedroom with items that can be used to hide alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
The purpose of the HIPS display is to educate parents, teachers, and other adults about signs of potential substance use that they might not have otherwise considered.
The HIPS display can be set up at teacher in-services, parent-teacher conferences, school open houses, and other community events.
To request to use the display for a community event, one simply should reach out to one of the Health Departments in Defiance, Fulton, or Williams County.
Led by HC3’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) Adult Allies Robin Willson and Karen Pennington, area youth were also encouraged to weigh in on the substance abuse topic during the “Increasing Youth Voice in Your Community,” portion of the program.
YAC Panel Members included: Jordan Witt, Evergreen High School; Kaitlyn Harkey, Notre Dame; Lily Nofziger, Pettisville High School; and Tayanna Bagrowski, Archbold High School.
Sharon Meece, Tante Lovins, and Nicole Shank of the Henry County Health Department then presented Harm Reduction and the Bridge to Recovery strategies.
The HCHD information included Ohio overdose statistics, harm reduction strategies, and Project DAWN. Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone) is a network of opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution programs (OENDP) coordinated by the Ohio Department of Health.
In the final leg of the programming, “Call to Action: Determining the Next Steps,” the opportunity was given to participants to gather with others from their respective counties, where guests were encouraged to discuss their county’s current efforts, identify the gaps, and to work towards a call to action on how they can be moving their current substance use prevention efforts forward.
Amy can be reached by email@example.com