October is National Substance Use Disorder Prevention Month, and for the past nine years, the Charlestown Coalition has partnered with the Clarence R. Edwards Middle School, the Harvard-Kent School, the Warren Prescott School, and the Mass General Hospital's Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) to host educational assemblies and activities for students as part of Prevention Month at the local elementary and middle schools.
In prior years, students received pre-surveys created with the assistance of MGH Center for Community Health Improvement’s Evaluations Team. The surveys assessed student knowledge of and opinions towards substance use. After this assessment, students receive lessons addressing myths and realities around substance use disorders, as well as information about different types of drugs, and addiction.
This past year, we went digital by placing scannable barcodes around the schools and community in hopes to engage youth in our,"Advice to My Middle School Self," photo contest produced by the Turn It Around youth group. Our goal was to pass on to the younger generation wisdom the older youth wish they had while in middle school. We're helping kids with more effective ways to handle life's pressures, make better decisions, and avoid risky behaviors.
Our “02129” Information Luncheons started in 2015 to meet the needs of Charlestown high school students who were significantly underperforming, both academically and behaviorally, when compared to their peers from surrounding neighborhoods.
The Coalition serves catered lunches to Charlestown High School students who live in Charlestown throughout the school year during each lunch period. This has provided us an opportunity to connect students to tutoring and social services, while keeping an eye on their academic records. We also bring in guest speakers from neighboring youth agencies to help plug students into their community and help them take advantage of local resources.
By becoming a familiar face to many of the Charlestown high school students, we have recruited several of our current Turn it Around members through the 02129 program.
Botvin LifeSkills/MGH Stay in Shape Curriculum
In keeping with our commitment to enhancing protective factors and reducing risk factors to prevent youth substance use, the Coalition has been organizing and facilitating school-based prevention programming since 2007. We use the Botvin LifeSkills curriculum, as well as slightly modified programs at the Edwards Middle School, Warren Prescott K-8 School, Harvard Kent Elementary School, and the Charlestown Boys and Girls Club. The curriculum encourages healthy habits around nutrition and exercise; teaches about smoking, drugs and bullying prevention; and, helps students learn relaxation techniques, among other important health improvement skills. Each year, the school-based prevention curricula are adapted to meet the needs and unique scheduling challenges of the individual school and delivered to the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.
Botvin LifeSkills is an evidence-based substance use disorder and violence prevention program. The approach is to target the social and psychological factors that lead to initial use and other maladaptive behaviors. To learn more about LifeSkills, click here.
In 2015, we partnered with MGH’s evidence-informed Stay in Shape program to teach a hybrid course that merged LifeSkills with the healthy living and stress reduction lessons of Stay in Shape. Its goal is to use group activities to teach students how to improve their nutrition, health, and fitness. To learn more about Stay in Shape, click here.
Trauma Response Team
The Coalition’s Trauma Response Team is funded through a grant from Boston Alliance for Community Health (BACH) and began meeting in July of 2016. The group is comprised of non-clinical people who were specifically selected for their long term experience assisting residents in dealing with trauma. The group meets monthly with two alternating clinicians from the MGH Charlestown Community Health Center. The group’s main goals are:
- Developing relationships between individuals that represent and work with different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic populations within Charlestown in an effort to address the deep-rooted racism and race-based tension and violence that exists in Charlestown, as well as developing ways to change this pattern among the younger generations.
- Offering an environment where, with the clinical guidance of our two community health center psychologists, group members are able to unload some of the vicarious and personal trauma they’ve experienced, as well as gain basic skills to better deal with these situations and take care of themselves.
- Developing a source of capable community responders to call upon when tragedies occur.
In addition to meeting monthly, the Trauma Response Team has participated in a Stop the Bleed training led by MGH Trauma Surgeon, David King, MD. Dr. King used his army and medical training to develop a highly effective program that teaches members how to correctly apply a tourniquet and apply pressure to open wounds. The Team has also participated in several other trainings, including Mental Health First Aid.
Addressing Substance Use at Charlestown High School
In 2014, Charlestown High School (CHS) reached out to the Charlestown Coalition for assistance in their effort to better address adolescent substance use in school. After assessing the needs within the school, the Coalition partnered with The Gavin Foundation, Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), and the Boston Public School System’s Succeed Boston to develop a program to address this need.
This collaboration supports students returning to CHS from the Succeed Boston Program as well as students identified by CHS’s Student Support Team to offer enhanced educational and treatment services for adolescent substance use. Using SAMHSA’s Motivational Enhancement and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy curricula for adolescent cannabis use, a weekly afterschool group is offered to these identified students.
Group sessions are held Wednesday from 1:00 to 2:00 at CHS. Students who successfully complete this program are given a Summerworks job through ABCD.