Encompass coalition talks youth substance use


Encompass coalition talks youth substance use
Coalition and members from the Northborough and Southborough communities gathered at Algonquin for an action planning meeting. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – A coalition to address substance use has renamed itself.

Encompass is a coalition made up of members from Northborough and Southborough and has representation from the schools, health departments, youth and family services, other organizations that serve youths and treatment providers.

The coalition held an action planning meeting earlier this month at Algonquin Regional High School.

“We are focused on preventing and reducing substance misuse in Northborough and Southborough,” said Northborough Health Director Kristin Black.

The group first formed under the name the Northborough Southborough Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. According to Southborough Youth and Family Services Director Sarah Cassell, the coalition held several programs and outreach events, including Narcan training and speakers at Algonquin Regional High School.

Over time, the coalition underwent several changes. There were changes to its leadership and membership, and they went through the COVID-19 pandemic, Cassell said.

“Despite all of these challenges to keep this work going, we continued to do so over all these years because of our collective passion for this work,” said Cassell.

Since, the coalition has hired Amanda Decker, added structure, established bylaws, formed a steering committee, drafted an orientation manual to welcome new members and increased their prevention leadership capacity through additional training.

Plus, the coalition has a new name — Encompass.

According to Black, in addition to supporting the health of residents, Encompass members will address access to substances and make environmental and policy changes to reduce substance misuse.

During the presentation, staff from Trendline presented results from the Metro- West Adolescent Health Survey for Algonquin Regional High School students collected in 2021. According to Trendline, substance use has been stagnant over the last 10 years while use of cigarettes has declined.

The numbers were compared to other high schools in the MetroWest.

According to their presentation, the percent of students who vape is 14%, 2.4% smoke cigarettes, 15% have consumed marijuana and 3.5% consumed prescription medication.

Trendline reported at 31% reported consuming at least one alcoholic drink. This is compared to 25% in the MetroWest.

According to Trendline, most kids in the community who drink are getting alcohol from a party or social gathering, 29% have taken alcohol from home with a parent’s knowledge and 27% have taken it without.

As part of Encompass’ future plans, the coalition hopes to expand its membership to include people from a variety of sectors.

Encompass also plans to develop and implement a one-year action plan to reduce substance use in youths, apply for funding through the Drug-Free Community Support Program and make recommendations to both towns regarding opioid settlement funds.

For more information, visit https://www.town.northborough.ma.us/health-department/pages/encompass.


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