Volunteer organization leads the way to halting substance abuse in youth and their families
CLARK COUNTY — Kelley Groen-Sieckmann lost her brother to a heroin overdose. Unfortunately, his situation is not unique. From 2012 to 2016, more than 3,300 people in Washington died of opioid related causes.
Now, Groen-Sieckmann works as a prevention specialist with Vancouver’s Prevent Coalition to change that pattern.
In partnership with ESD 112 and the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA), Prevent is joining a statewide ‘Honest Conversations’ information campaign; based on HCA’s Starts with One program.
“In prevention science it shows that if you have a lot of risk factors in your life, if you at least have one caring adult in your life, the risk of using substances is decreased tremendously,” Groen-Sieckmann said. “So honest conversations are really key.”
According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, children who have parents that talk with them about drugs and substance abuse, are 50 percent less likely to use. This type of statistic is what drives the Starts with One program to connect parents and educators with resources to then impart to youth.
At GetTheFactsRX.com, these resources are widely available. Methods and advice for identifying substance abuse, keeping prescription drugs locked up and recovery help are key factors in the campaign’s strategy. With more accidental deaths in Washington traced to prescription pain medications than firearms or traffic collisions, the security factor is huge for the Coalition.
Groen-Sieckmann explained how no one is immune to the potential for opioid abuse. While Prevent focuses on youth prevention and outreach, they are in the beginning stages of working with the elderly populations as well, such as grandparents, who are most often the inadvertent source of illegally obtained medications by minors.
“Grandparents talking to their grandkids around the dangers of opioids and misusing them, or any substances for that matter. You don’t go to one party, and it’s just alcohol that might be there. Prevention is about preventing youth from using any substance,” Groen-Sieckmann added. “The whole overall mission of prevention, is engaging youth in healthy activities and building strong communities, healthy communities free of substance use and building resilient youth.”
Prevent Coalition has been grant funded since 2003, and the campaign itself is nearing its fourth year of operation. With the ongoing pandemic, the organization has had to go virtual with many resources and conversations. Groen-Sieckmann explained how they have become creative in the dispersal of resources and info to parents using the meal-pick-up programs at many schools as a touchpoint.
In the upcoming month of October, Prevent will host their Drug Take Back Event in partnership with law enforcement and partnering prevention coalitions across the county. There will be four sites covering all the compass directions, and a full list of info and sites can be found at preventcoalition.org or you can find year-round disposal sites via an interactive map at takebackyourmeds.org.
“We all could play a part in protecting loved ones in our environment so we could be a part of the solution,” Groen-Sieckmann said. “This work is very close to my heart and it is so impactful on so many people’s lives.”
Prevent is also a partner Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health; who hosts the Clark County Opioid Task Force. The force works with Clark County Public Health to train people in the community to respond to opioid overdoses using Naloxone.
In addition to the new campaign, Prevent Coalition also honored several of its volunteer partners through the network of coalitions in Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties. Every year the network hosts an event to congratulate the Outstanding Volunteers of the year, but this year the event was hosted virtually.
“Volunteers are the backbone of a community coalition,” Jesse Jimenez, community prevention project coordinator for ESD 112, said in a release. “Even though we couldn’t recognize these amazing volunteers in person this year, we wanted to make sure they knew how much we appreciate them and all they do for the Coalition and their communities.”
To view the personalized videos for each volunteer, visit the website here.