By Mary Catherine Karcich, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Master of Public Health Jessica Healy recently stepped into her new role of regional youth abuse prevention coordinator for the Hudson Youth Substance Abuse Prevention (YSAP) Coalition. Ever since its start in 2012, the coalition has been offering prevention and treatment for individuals ages 21 and younger who are battling substance abuse. Healy said she is ready to continue bringing awareness to the community while hoping for a decrease in the number of people struggling with addiction.
Healy did not start off in public health; in fact, she admits that it took her a long time to figure out what she truly wanted to do. She describes her past experiences as “mini-careers.” Healy first earned a bachelor’s degree in education. She taught middle school for three years, worked as a professional photographer, and even got her feet wet in the medical industry. Although none of those worked out, she did discover an interest in public health.
Healy holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of New England. There, she wrote various research papers on topics including methamphetamine production and air quality, the return to work for those in long-term recovery, and protecting those addicted to opioids who are not ready to seek treatment.
Despite the long journey it took to get to where she is now, “I can honestly say that I love what I do, and the wait to get to this point was a learning opportunity,” Healy said.
Today, Healy is working on the future of the YSAP Coalition. She would love to see an emphasis placed on prevention of alcohol, marijuana and opioids, as well as efforts made to help those who are affected by the opioid crisis. She believes it will lessen the crisis if action is taken.
Healy is also working on a second coalition to bring together not only Hudson, but also Northborough, Southborough, Ashland and Framingham. The focus will be on youth substance abuse with an emphasis on underage drinking. She explained the importance of pinpointing the reason or reasons behind drinking and recognizing that the same reason could attract alcohol abusers to other drugs.
While goals for the new coalition are still in the works, Healy has goals for the YSAP Coalition. However, she pointed out the importance of making sure they are realistic.
“I think that it’s unrealistic to say that underage drinking/substance abuse will go away despite the hope that it will,” she said.
With that in mind, Healy still hopes to see a reduction in teen binge drinking.
“Success, although it seems small, is preventing one kid from starting in the first place,” she said. “Most people would balk at that number, but what if that one kid was your kid?”
Another focus for Healy is to bring attention to substance abuse. Activities and events to raise awareness and prevention are currently being organized.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a community to reduce and prevent substance abuse,” Healy said.
The YSAP Coalition meets in the second floor auditorium at Hudson Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month. The next meeting is to be held March 1. Another event from the coalition, alongside the Marlborough Coalition and Grace Baptist Church, will be on Wednesday, April 6, at 6:30 p.m. They will be presenting “If Only,” a film about substance abuse. It will be held at Grace Baptist Church, 353 River Road, in Hudson.
For anyone with questions or those interested in getting involved, contact Healy at [email protected].