State and local drug prevention officials gathered Monday on the steps of the Capitol to highlight prevention efforts in the state as part of Pennsylvania Prevention Week, which began Sunday and continues through Saturday.
“We often spend too much time tackling the outcome of the problem and too little time tackling the root causes of the problem,” said Jeff Hanley, chief executive of the Commonwealth Prevention Alliance, the local prevention organization, said. “Thanks to your efforts, prevention is taking place here in our communities across the Commonwealth.”
One such leader is Kristen Warner, administrator Dauphin County Drug and Alcohol Services. Warner said her own success in long-term recovery from a drug-related disorder is largely driven by “protective factors,” such as continued support from the “love environment”.
“When I learned more about prevention through my work at Dauphin County Drug and Alcohol, I learned that I have things like protective factors that affected me and that helped me heal,” Warner said. “Protective factors such as a loving and supportive environment that helped me eventually find a way to recovery.”
Warner said Dauphin County is taking steps to expand programs and services to intensify prevention efforts for all members of the community, including women, children and the elderly.
“We’re adding providers, we’re adding trainings and we’re adding people who enjoy this kind of work,” Warner said, noting that the department offers free training for those who want to become prevention providers in Dauphin County.
Christina Genti, a health promotion specialist at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, said the “simple interactions” in the community “have proven to create protection for young people.”
Involving and recognizing young people in small but meaningful ways enables them to adopt “healthy behaviors” and “skills and competencies to act with them,” Jenny said.
Pennsylvania Department of Drugs and Alcohol Secretary Jen Smith echoed Gentie’s comments, adding that “open and honest conversations” matter.
“By promoting a healthy lifestyle, having open and honest conversations and providing a positive environment, all Pennsylvania children can develop,” Smith said.
Smith added that resources such as Pennsylvania Student Assistance Programwhich aims to help students overcome barriers to learning, can help school staff identify issues related to mental health, drugs and alcohol.
“Through this program,” Smith said, “teachers can connect students with resources and help them overcome barriers by allowing them to stay in school and develop in their studies.”
Smith stressed that prevention efforts are “data-driven.”
“The Wolf Administration Pennsylvania Youth Survey is a survey of sixth, eighth, 10th, and 12th graders that helps assess students’ views on the school environment, their mental health, and their behavior and attitudes related to alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, violence, and other problem behaviors. “- Smith said.
The 2021 Youth Survey recorded students ’responses to 468 school districts across Pennsylvania.
Its results, which have not yet been published, will inform about further efforts of state and local entities, Smith said.
“Tools like the Pennsylvania Youth Survey will help us identify where holes may exist and, more importantly, help schools and communities use effective, evidence-based prevention measures.”