By Joan F. Simoneau, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Students, teachers, parents, policemen, and other concerned residents have joined the Hudson Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, sponsored by the Hudson Board of Health. These community partners are committed to reverse the current trend of increasing adolescent substance use in Hudson that was revealed in the 2010 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey.
The coalition was formed shortly after the town of Hudson received a three-year, $180,000 grant from the MetroWest Foundation.
“Substance abuse, including over-the-counter, prescription, and “street” drugs, is a major public health concern in this country,” Pat Emmons, a Hudson High School nurse and chair of the Hudson Board of Health, said. “Hudson is not immune to this problem. I work with a population at high risk on a daily basis and have seen the impact of these behaviors on our most vulnerable citizens. By reaching out to community leaders of all ages, we hope that the coalition can send a clear, united message that Hudson cares.”
A? poster campaign is part of the prevention strategy. “You might not think of yourself as a typical drug dealer but your kids know better” is a startling statement on one poster currently being circulated throughout the town. The poster further states:? “Kids who are abusing prescription drugs get them from the medicine cabinets of their family and friends. Find out how to put yourself out of business.”
The Hudson Police Department has established a permanent medication take-back kiosk at the police station, 62 Packard St. The community resource is accessible 24 hours a day in the lobby. Local residents are encouraged to dispose of unused or expired medications, no questions asked. Accepted medications include prescriptions, prescription patches and ointments, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and medications for pets. Officer Roger Downing, a member of the coalition, said that many members of the community are disposing of items in the kiosk, which is emptied regularly.
A school-based program, “Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment” (SBIRT),has been implemented at the JFK Middle School to keep students mentally and physically healthy by reinforcing healthy behaviors and providing the appropriate prevention, intervention, and referrals as quickly as possible to students deemed at risk. Data from the MetroWest survey suggest that there is some alcohol use in seventh grade, but it increases substantially in eighth and ninth grades.
Jenny Gormley, director of Health, Nursing and Safety for Hudson public schools is hopeful that the group will “help to strengthen our health curriculum and to try new evidenced-based approaches to supporting students” decisions to delay onset and/or decrease frequency/quantity of substance use.”
She is advocating for the SBIRT program to be used again in the fall.
Representing the youth population is Mikenna Doherty, a junior at Hudson High School and a member of the Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) school chapter.
“What I really hope to accomplish is to make people, especially adolescents, aware of the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse and educate them to make good, healthy decisions,” she said.
The coalition's upcoming Substance-free Summer Fest is a youth-led event providing opportunities for positive self-expression. It will be held Friday, Aug. 2, from 5 to 9 p.m. in Wood Park, 65 Park St., and feature music from local bands, poetry, skits and food donated by local vendors.