Eileen McNulty, director of Bristol Youth Services, and Christina Sanchez, BEST 4 Bristol project coordinator, attended Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America National Leadership Forum in Washington D.C., and returned with new knowledge to help shape their work in the city.
The forum, which wsa held Feb. 4 to 7, had “record breaking youth involvement, federal partner participation, and the attendance of some of the most recognized substance misuse prevention advocates in the world,” according to a releaser from CADCA.
Forum speakers included United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Office of National Drug Control Policy director Jim Carroll, Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency Uttam Dhillon, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration assistant secretary for mental health Elinore McCance-Katz, National Institute on Drug Abuse director Nora Volkow, and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism director George Koob.
Sanchez said that the theme for this year’s forum was “Transforming Communities: The Power of Prevention,” and that the approximately 4,000 attendees were able to attend a number of informational trainings regarding prevention.
“I geared some of my trainings towards adolescent health and development. I was very interested in the lessons learned from marijuana from other states,” said McNulty, who has been with Bristol Youth Services for 30 years. “Both Chris and I tried to get as many of the marijuana conferences in to see what’s being learned and what’s being discovered in other communities and bring it back.”
“What’s really great about this experience is they’re giving the opportunity for all prevention professionals,” said Sanchez, “not only in America, but also reaching out to those other parts of the world and coming together, and being able to network with other professionals about what’s going on prevention-wise with our youth.”
Two of the main areas of concern, in Sanchez’s opinion, were youth vaping and the legalization of marijuana.
One idea the women brought back to Bristol was the idea of policy change, and how that leads to environmental changes, which McNulty said means the “way of being” in a community, rather than the natural world surrounding the community.
According to Sanchez, policy change can occur on all levels, such as implementing new town ordinances or updating policies in schools, stretching all the way up to the state level, with the enacting of new legislation.
In McNulty’s opinion, Bristol is lucky that many of the youth have the perception that the use of tobacco-based products, as well as opioids, is something harmful.
The BEST 4 Bristol Coalition works closely with the Mayor’s Opioid Task Force in order to prevent substance abuse at as many levels as possible.
BEST 4 Bristol meets on the third Thursday of every month, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Bridge Community Church, 43 School St., Bristol. To learn more about the coalition, visit www.best4bristol.com.
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