History

In January of 2004 the Mayor of the City of Newburyport, Mayor Mary Anne Clancy, appointed a Task Force on Teen Substance Abuse following a series of grave incidents involving youth and substance abuse resulting in death, suicide, and criminal charges.  The Task Force brought together representatives from our schools, Parent Alliance, youth organizations, law enforcement, city officials, students, clergy, medical personnel and volunteer organizations and representatives from across the city to work collaboratively to find effective solutions to reduce underage use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The Taskforce evolved into the Beacon Coalition in 2006.

Approach

As a community, Newburyport has adopted a positive approach to prevention.What does that mean? It means that as a coalition, we are dedicated to building up the protective factors (or assets) in young people, rather than a deficit based approach. Traditionally prevention has been done with an “anti-drug”, or “just say no” mentality. Our approach is focused on looking at young people’s strengths, resources and supports to help them make positive choices. We have adopted the 40 Development Assets Framework to use as a shared language and vision throughout the city. To learn more about positive youth development, please visit the Newburyport Youth Services site for an overview.

Tools

In order to accurately understand our community needs and resources, the BEACON Youth Project will continue to collect both quantitative and qualitative data on an annual basis. This data will be used to build a multi-year analysis to map Newburyport’s strength and weaknesses regarding substance abuse, norms, service delivery systems, policies and laws. We anticipate that our strategic plan will evolve over the five-year grant period to effectively impact change regarding use of ATOD within our community.

The Newburyport School District has administered the Youth Risk Behavior Survey bi-annually for the past six years and will re-administer this survey to grades 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12 during year one, three and five of the grant project. The Search Institute Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors was administered initially in October of 2004 and will be re-administered in years two and four of the grant project to grades 6, 8, 10 and 11. In addition, a gap identified in our data is parents’ perceptions about drug use and their awareness of their child's behaviors. This additional data will provide valuable opinions on appropriate drug prevention programming as research indicates that student responses are often inconsistent with parent responses.

Funding

Through their work, the Taskforce was funded for 5 years in September of 2005 by the Drug Free Communities Support Program. The goals of the federal funding are to reduce substance abuse and build a strong coalition.

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