Statistics indicate prevention efforts are working
Jamestown students are using alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes less than their statewide peers. This is according to recent SALT statistics, which find that over the past seven years Jamestown students have scored consistently better than the state average.
Jamestown Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force Coordinator Laura Hosley attributes this drop, at least in part, to the prevention efforts of the task force and the Jamestown community as a whole. "Looking at these statistics, Jamestown's scores rise nicely in terms of non-use as compared to the state average," Hosley said. "We are doing a great job here in Jamestown and I think the statistics reflect that. One of the greatest strengths we have here, in terms of prevention, is the cooperative effort of the entire community."
Hosley praised the effort and involvement of local police, the recreation department staff, school administrators and personnel, town officials, task force volunteers, parents and teens themselves. "We have great representation from many diverse groups in our prevention effort," Hosley said. "We especially appreciate the contribution of our teen task force volunteers. They bring ideas and a perspective that we wouldn't have without their input."
Some of the most important work that the task force does, according to Hosley, is to advocate for programs and policies to promote health and safety for young people. "We work toward helping police and town offi cials enact ordinances to support prevention efforts. For instance, we have been instrumental in getting the Student Assistance Program into Jamestown schools and in supporting the teen center work," Hosley said.
The latest efforts of the task force are centered on getting a juvenile hearing board established in Jamestown. "We are one of only a handful of towns in the state that doesn't have a juvenile hearing board," Hosley said. The board would consist of volunteers nominated by the town council and would hear cases referred by police. "The juvenile hearing board would handle local cases as opposed to having them referred to the family court," Hosley said. There are specific criteria for cases that can be heard by these boards and there are consequences for the actions of the adolescents involved, according to Hosley. "I'm a systems person," Hosley said. "If the systems are in place then we'll have a better chance of helping kids. I see the juvenile hearing board as one way to intervene with kids in a helpful and supportive way," she said.
One community member who supports Hosley's efforts is longtime State Representative Bruce Long. "Bruce has been really supportive of the task force," Hosley said. "In fact, he plans to continue to be active in supporting the task force even after he leaves office in January." As part of this support, Hosley said, Long will be sponsoring a holiday fundraiser. "Bruce has teamed up with Steven Liebhauser, who owns Slice of Heaven, to sponsor a fundraiser for the task force. Coupons for a free cup of coffee will be mailed out and Long has pledged to donate to the task force an equivalent amount for each redeemed coupon," Hosley said. "There will also be a donation jar at Slice of Heaven for anyone who would like to support our efforts."
The task force is currently focusing its efforts, according to Hosley, on the approaching holidays. "We know that risk factors increase around the holidays," Hosley said. In an effort to reduce this risk, the task force teamed with the North Kingstown Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force and North Kingstown Media Committee member, Steve Colucci to offer the following tips:
• Adults who are hosting a party and plan on serving alcohol should set a zero tolerance policy for their kids. Remind them that some adults at the party may choose to have a drink, which is fine. However, underage drinking isn't acceptable.
• If someone at the holiday party drinks too much, talk with kids the next day about that person's behavior and the altering effects of alcohol.
• Following a party, clear out or lock-up leftover alcohol.
• If there is a party that is being held where it is suspected that alcohol is being used by underage persons, alert the police. Know that the police are not eager to 'bust' kids but are interested in the safety and wellbeing of the public.
• For parents who are hosting a party, understand that you are responsible for what happens in your home. If there is underage drinking going on in your home or on your property, be prepared to be arrested or charged under the "social host laws."