The Power of Prevention, a new podcast series, provides important information about alcohol, tobacco, and other substance misuse prevention. Produced by The Partnership @drugfreeNH (The Partnership), each episode features some of the great work taking place in the Granite State in the prevention arena.
In the first episode, host Christin D’Ovidio interviews Kim Haley, a Student Assistance Program (SAP) Coordinator at Second Start School in Concord, NH. The conversation sheds light on what schools and SAPs, in particular, can do to help students learn and thrive; not only in school, but in general. The SAP model provides support to students, as well as parents and family members. SAPs throughout the state are alcohol and other drug education/prevention programs designed to help students make positive choices about healthy lifestyles. Second Start provides SAP services to seven schools in the Concord, NH area.
Haley speaks of the difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic caused for students, teachers, and parents. She points to the stress parents carry while juggling their work and caring for their family, especially as their children struggle with the complexities and isolation of online learning. She also says the increased anxiety education professionals see in their students has led to a growing concern for students’ mental health.
In the 25-minute podcast episode, Haley emphasizes the importance of working with children and adolescents who are most at risk of adopting dangerous behaviors, such as alcohol or other drug misuse. She outlines the signs that teachers and SAPs use to identify at-risk students and some of the specific strategies SAPs employ to help students regulate their emotions. One tactic is to help students recognize connections between their emotions and situations. By doing so, they can develop methods to better cope with the situations causing them distress. “Once a student is settled, focused, and calmed down, they can learn,” said Haley.
Haley also emphasizes the importance of teamwork in successful prevention efforts. SAPs include guidance counselors, school psychologists, and parents in their plans to support youth. This sometimes involves parents who are themselves in recovery. “Being in recovery says nothing about your character, it says you have a disease,” said Haley. “Contacting the SAP at school is not going to get you judged.”
When asked for her definition of prevention, Haley says it’s not just about drugs and alcohol.
“Prevention happens over the course of life. It is the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and connections that help us navigate and face the challenges of life,” she said. “Prevention helps us handle things so we don’t have to engage in risky behaviors to get rid of feelings that are harmful to us.”
“Substance misuse is a serious public health issue that affects all aspects of society. Prevention and health promotion have been proven to be an effective tool in preventing and reducing substance misuse and its consequences” said Jill Burke, MPA, Prevention Services Unit, Administrator in the NH DHHS, Division for Behavioral Health. “The Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services is pleased to support and promote this series of podcast episodes that showcase the power of prevention in NH.”
Future episodes of the podcast will focus on topics such as how the NH Juvenile Court Diversion supports prevention efforts; using pain management programs as alternatives to opioid prescriptions; and how prevention efforts are funded in the state.
Debbie Love, Consultant, JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc.
By day, Debbie Love works at JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc., to get the word out about prevention on a variety of public health issues specific to our youth, oral health, immunization, substance misuse, homelessness, and aging, to name just a few. In her free time, she is a published poet and author, focusing her writing on humorous accounts of her everyday life to share with the world, while seeking opportunities to give back to local businesses in her community through the sales of her children’s book. Debbie lives in Chichester, NH, with her husband, children, and very spoiled rescued dogs and cat.