Drug-free coalition achieves milestones

Almost to the day one year after receiving a five-year federal grant, The Bristol Prevention Coalition for a Drug-Free Community has achieved several milestones in helping prevent substance abuse in Bristol, announced a press release from the city.

Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and administered through the City of Bristol, the federal grant totals $125,000 per year. After an extensive community assessment, the release said the Coalition’s 2017 action plan addresses alcohol and marijuana use among 6th through 12th grade Bristol students. The grant specifies the funds must be used for prevention and education on specific categories of abuse which are prescription drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana misuse. The Coalition decided to focus on alcohol and marijuana abuse after analyzing current data and taking into consideration local conditions in the Bristol community, said the release. The vision for the coalition is to develop a culture of awareness and sustained action that will promote positive youth development resulting in a healthier community. The grants are currently being used in 24 Connecticut towns, said the news release.

“We are extremely proud that Bristol was the only Connecticut grant applicant to receive this year one grant. This is truly a community effort as the grant rules stipulate that 12 different sectors of the community must commit to be involved and actively participate in achieving the agreed upon goals,” said Eileen McNulty, Bristol Director of Community and Youth Services & Grant Project director, according to the press release. “Thanks to dozens of citizens’ input at monthly and quarterly meetings, we have hit the ground running and already hit many benchmarks in helping the community.”

The group’s effort is focused on prevention because the data shows that many Bristol youth show signs of early substance abuse, said the release. During the 2015-2016 school year, over 14 percent of all students in grades 6 through 12 reported using alcohol within 30 days, and 8.6 percent of those students reported having used marijuana within 30 days. In addition, almost 1 in 10 seniors reported using medication not prescribed to them in the last 30 days.

In 2017, some of the Coalition’s major accomplishments focus on awareness and education, said the news release.

 

These activities include:

Branding the overall initiative titled “B.E.S.T. – 4 – Bristol.” (Bristol Eliminating Substance abuse Together)

Developing meaningful collateral to be used for events attended such as the Bristol Health Fair and Rockwell Park Summer Festival

Co-sponsoring law enforcement’s youth basketball tournament in June

Establishing and implementing three social media sites

Initiating a new, dedicated website

Participating with school officials in freshman orientation seminars

Hiring a project coordinator, Jesse Mancinone, to manage the tactical efforts

Working with the Bristol Boys and Girls Club on educational events and programs

“The B.E.S.T. – 4 – Bristol mission is to work for unification of the community to promote wellness in our culture through increasing education, implementing strategies, and enforcing policy to prevent substance abuse by our young people including other key figures who impact their development,” said Mancinone, according to the press release. “We are doing this by initiating collaborations of community organizations, city groups, and private individuals in the Coalition’s initiatives and activities.”

The news release said most of the tactics have focused on building and engaging members in subcommittee work groups; providing prevention and education on frameworks and strategies to sector leaders based on ongoing data analysis; and disseminating information via social media, events and festivals. One recent unique activity was staging a mock car accident caused by substance abuse to clearly illustrate the dangers and long-range effects substance abuse can cause.

“There might not be any bigger issue facing our community than keeping our kids safe, healthy and preparing them for adulthood. The key aspect of this is that all the efforts are focused on prevention,” said Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne in the press release. “It is much better and cheaper for everyone if we can make sure that we prevent a problem than deal with the repercussions of letting abuse happen. That would be much more costly and painful. It’s great to see our City work together to make Bristol a better place.”