Doug Terbeek, executive director of the Prevention Team, sees the need for continuing substance abuse education in the county.
Teens appear to be getting it, but there is still more work to be done.
That is what Doug Terbeek and Mac MacDevitt said were the results of the 2012 Prevention Needs Assessment Survey conducted in each school throughout Essex County, which they presented to the Essex County Board of Supervisors during its Sept. 24 Ways and Means Committee meeting.
“Overall, the risk for youth is trending down,” Terbeek, the Executive Director of the Prevention Team, said. “There are 20 risk factors and 15 protective factors that are covered in the survey, and we can really pull out some very interesting data from these surveys. The good news is that the numbers are going down, but they are still higher than the national averages.”
MacDevitt said that students from each school filled out surveys about their perceptions and use of alcohol and drugs.
“We made it very clear and worked very hard to keep these results confidential,” he said. “No teachers ever saw their answers and each one was sealed after it was completed. The students were given the chance to be honest and open.”
MacDevitt said any surveys that seemed to be filled out improperly were discarded leading to what he felt was an accurate representation of where teens in Essex County schools stand on the issues of alcohol and drug use.
“What the research says is that this is a community problem,” he said. “The idea is to try and work on these factors to make these things less desireable to our youth. We need to drive the kids to more positive behaviors.”
Terbeek said that around 76 percent of students in grades 7-12 in the county responded to the surveys.
“This is what these kids perceive is going on,” MacDevitt said. “This is their honest opinion. In the world of trying to figure out what is going on with youth, this is not a bad tool.”
One area where Terbeek and MacDevitt said they were concerned was where the teens were saying they were able to get alcohol from.
“You look at the top four responses and they all have to do with the home and parents,” Terbeek said.
“I am not impressed to see that more than 40-percent of those surveyed were saying that they were one way or another drinking at home,” Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley said. “I was impressed, though, to see that our businesses are not selling this to our children.”
“We wonder what the parents are doing and what the schools are doing in these situations because this really does come down to a community problem that needs community answers,” MacDevitt said.
One area that Terbeek said has seen success is the year-long fight against synthetic marijuana.
“It seems that the teens are getting the message and that the use rates are low,” Terbeek said. “The teens that we talked to got it. They got that K-2 was harmful and that is why they launched the efforts that brought us to the point where there is now a state ban.”
North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said that he felt the information in the survey was something that needed to be shared throughout the county.
“This is very informative and very concerning,” Politi said. “It would seem to me that it would be good to have this available on the county website and to send it out to the schools and parents.”
Terbeek said that they already share their information with the schools, but would provide a copy for use on the county website.