Change Your Impact
Series, Part 5: A Youth’s Perspective
November 8, 2017 | View PDF
Our school superintendents, administrators, and teachers have a great deal of responsibility to our children. Year round they provide opportunity for our children to learn, grow, adapt, excel and succeed; not just in the academic field, nor just in athletic areas either. The school has also become the place to learn good behaviors, positive self-image and the six pillars of character: TRUSTWORTHINESS, RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, FAIRNESS, CARING, and CITIZENSHIP. In building our youth using these pillars, the school invariably is involved in prevention of risky behaviors like alcohol and drug use. Last week was Red Ribbon Week throughout the Nation and Richland County. All the local schools participated in some way to bring awareness to the risks associated with underage drinking and drug misuse. The kids participated in a variety of activities and listened to many tragic stories from local and distant representatives in hopes that some of these prevention efforts will impact some of the youth positively. But how do we know that these efforts are working? How do we as parents, as school employees, as public health and safety officers know that we are making a definitive impact?
Every two years, in the spring, the majority of youth in Montana schools take a risk assessment from the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) that assists in determining the answers to those questions. Here is an excerpt from the state letter that is going out to every superintendent of each school in Montana this next week. “Prevention works when you understand the factors that raise a student’s risk for substance misuse (risk factors) and those that may offer some degree of protection from these risks (protective factors) and then use this knowledge to design interventions aimed at steering students away from substance misuse.” The Montana Prevention Needs Assessment (PNA) is anonymous and voluntary to the youth and the schools but the information learned from this assessment is used to allocate federal prevention funding as the state of Montana does not provide prevention dollars. This survey provides valuable information on a county level that helps health departments, prevention organizations like District II, schools, other community clubs and organizations, and us as parents see how our youth community views aspects of alcohol and drug misuse, bullying, school violence, and internet related sexual advances. The survey also identifies protective factors like school activities, community events, home life, social interactions, etc. The Montana Prevention Needs Assessment provides a unique look at each county in Montana allowing prevention and risk management to occur on a local and customized level.
Each of our children will take this anonymous survey in the spring so take time to talk to your child about these risk factors and help them understand how the six pillars of character are reflected in their choices.
For more information about the Montana Prevention Needs Assessment visit: http://dphhs.mt.gov/amdd/SubstanceAbuse/CDDATA/PNADATA/2016PNAData#505496058-county-data, for specific county data from the 2016 survey results. Your local health department and District II Alcohol and Drug Program would also have that information available.
Challenge yourself to Talk It UP & Lock It Up. Talk to youth about what this information means to you and take precautions by counting and locking up your alcohol. It is that simple to make positive impacts on Richland County youth! Send your comments to the Editor to further this conversation.
Next time: Change Your Impact Series, Part 6, Support youth, but not in the way you think!