How many of you have heard the saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure”? It's easier to stop something from happening in the first place than to repair the damage after it has happened.
Just as you protect your kids against illnesses like measles, you can help "immunize" them against drug use by giving them the facts before they're in a risky situation. The more we can educate and raise awareness of the current issues and trends that influence our youth; we will continue to see a decrease in high-risk behaviors such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and opioids.
The Watertown Healthy Youth (WHY) coalition is a community coalition focused on educating on risk taking behaviors and choices that affect our youth’s health and safety. We identify specific concerns affecting our youth and organize/promote ways the community can work together to make Watertown a healthy and safe place for our youth.
We advocate for and help implement evidence-based practices, policies, and that will make Watertown stronger, healthier and drug-free for our youth and families. To change the community’s social behaviors and attitudes that tolerate underage drinking and other unhealthy risk-taking behaviors, we educate the community about the best practices in prevention that address:
1. Underage drinking among 12-20 year olds
2. Binge drinking (5 more more drinks in one setting) among 12 – 24 year olds
3. Other drug use and social issues that affect our youth
A pivotal turn of success for the coalition came about in 2011 when Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) and Project SUCCESS was implemented at the community and school levels. From 2011-2017, there has been significant (and pretty consistent) decreases in 30 day use across all grades proving that prevention works! Along with funds from Department of Social Services Behavioral Health Prevention Program, the coalition has collaborated efforts to receive grant funding from the Department of Health Tobacco Control Program, Department of Corrections Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Program, and Department of Social Services Suicide Prevention grant to address issues that impact the youth. Locally, service clubs like the Watertown Optimist Club, Kiwanis, and Rotary have contributed funds to help with projects and activities. The Watertown Area Community Foundation has provided funds to bridge the gaps while the coalition continues to look for sustaining funds. The coalition was also awarded United Way funding beginning in 2018 to help with sustainability of programming. There is still immediate and long term funding gaps that need to be addressed, but with the success of the programming over the years and the partnerships created, the coalition is hopeful that no programming cuts will need to be made.
The Watertown youth and community have experienced the benefits of prevention programming when it addresses the needs that show up in the data. The coalition has come a long way with prevention efforts, but realize that maintaining these successful efforts will be challenged as funding continues to be cut and the pace of the social issues among youth keep changing. If you are looking for more resources for yourself or your child, talk to your health care provider, talk to someone at the school, or contact a helping professional. There are also free resource material that can be checked out at the NE Prevention Resource Center Prevention Resource Library
Mission: Raise the awareness of our youth’s developmental needs and collaborate with our community’s resources to build a safe and healthy community.
Vision: Drug-free, Alcohol-free, Safe & Healthy