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.
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 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.
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.
“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.
“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. 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.
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. “We are doing this by initiating collaborations of community organizations, City groups, and private individuals in the Coalition’s initiatives and activities.”
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. “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.”
The Coalition began in the early 1990s as the Bristol Youth Prevention Council, which was funded by a small grant. Since then, the coalition’s name and membership has changed, but its focus on reducing youth substance abuse has remained constant.
Today the coalition’s members come from all 12 community sectors: school, law enforcement, youth (age 18 and younger), parents, business, media, civic/volunteer groups, healthcare, religious organization, local, state governmental agency, youth-serving organization and other concerned organizations. Leadership and guidance comes from the Coalition’s Executive Committee