By Susan Parmelee
One of the most important responsibilities of the Wellness & Prevention Center staff is our leadership of the Wellness & Prevention Coalition.
The Wellness & Prevention (WP) Coalition is part of the Federal Office of National Drug Control Policies Drug-Free Communities program. Through a five-year grant, we receive $125,000 per year to lead a coalition made up of every sector in our community. The mission of the WP Coalition is to lower the use of nicotine, alcohol, marijuana and illegal drugs by youth under the age of 21.
When we wrote this grant request three years ago, we chose lowering past 30-day use of alcohol and marijuana among our youth as our measurable goals. The program does allow us to add to these goals, as the challenges in a community may change over a five-year span. At our last nationwide training in Washington, D.C., we were encouraged to include programming to help youth understand the health impact of vaping devices and to lower the stigma surrounding youth mental health and suicide.
Last week, we held our second annual WP Coalition leadership strategy session. Following are a few key updates and some of our objectives for the next year:
Accomplishments of the Wellness & Prevention Coalition:
- When we started the funded coalition in 2017, the California Healthy Kids Survey data reported past 30-day use of alcohol for seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders were 4%, 16%, and 35%, respectively. In the most recent data, the past 30-day use of alcohol for seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders were 2%, 13% and 27%, respectively.
- San Clemente High School has a very active youth coalition that has made an impact on their peers through both on-campus and community-wide events. One of their favorite events is “Puttin’ on the Glitz,” where they serve hot chocolate and pass out red ribbons for car door handles to remind the community to drive responsibly.
- Per the request of community members, we have increased education, online and through live events, that focuses on both the health impact of vaping and guidance on navigating the complicated social media world.
Objectives for next year:
- Increase WP Coalition focus on environmental factors that influence youth vaping, including partnering with city government to possibly ban the sales of flavored cartridges for vaping devices, attempted buys at local vape shops, and a town hall to get input from the community on their views about how we can help youth make healthy choices.
- Increase the voice of our youth in planning and implementation by facilitating youth coalitions in middle schools.
- Develop a sustainability plan that ensures the continuation of WP Coalition work past the Federal grant funding award.
- Plan to increase community knowledge about the signs and symptoms of the diseases of mental health in teens, lower the stigma surrounding talking about the diseases of mental health and substance use, and provide resources for community members to find support and referrals. (The Wellness & Prevention Center provides these services; go to wpc-oc.org.)
I hope you are now wondering, “What can I do to help?” The Wellness & Prevention Coalition always needs volunteers, donations, and ideas.
- Attending one of our monthly meetings—these are open to the public—on the second Tuesday of each month from 3:30-5 p.m. at 189 Avenida La Cuesta. To be added to the meeting email list, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Signing up for our bi-monthly email; it keeps you current on community activities and events, as well as providing educational materials.
- Making a donation to support our work. Go to wpc-oc.org.
Susan Parmelee is a mental health social worker and one of the founders of the Wellness & Prevention Center, San Clemente. She can be reached at email@example.com.