The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
the Times 

Prevention is the goal for the Coalition for Youth and Families

Coalition serves to increase awareness and educate


December 19, 2019

DAYTON—Chelsey Eaton, Columbia County’s Public Health Wellness Initiative/Coalition Coordinator, is leading the charge to help the members of the Coalition for Youth and Families to craft and implement a strategic plan to educate the community on prevention awareness, and raise awareness about mental health issues that contribute to substance use.

How are Dayton youth doing in regard to substance use, as compared to students state-wide?

In October 2018 Dayton students in Grades 6 - 11 took the Healthy Youth Survey, which they do every two years.

Data from the survey was compiled, researched, and analyzed statewide, and the results were then presented back to the community.

The results of the Healthy Youth Survey show Dayton students are reporting higher indications of poor mental health than the state average.

Of the 10th graders taking the survey, 55 percent said they have felt sad or hopeless for at least two weeks, compared to 40 percent of youth, statewide. 27 percent considered suicide in the past year, and 27 percent attempted suicide. 36 percent said they have been bullied at school, within a 30-day time frame, as compared to 10 percent statewide.

Forty-one percent of sophomores report not feeling safe at school.

On the plus side, only 14 percent of high school students consumed alcohol within a 30-day time period, which represents a drop in alcohol consumption from the 2016 survey results.

Students report lower use than the state average for marijuana consumption. Students in grades eight through twelve are reporting use at 8.25 percent in a 30-day time frame. The state average is around 13 percent.

Prescription opioid use “to get high” for students in grades 8-12 is low at only 1 percent, compared to the state average of 13 percent.

Overall, students are reporting 0 percent use of opioid prescription drugs not prescribed to them. (The Coalition and the health department have campaigned for protective measures such as lockboxes.)

30-day tobacco use is 6 percent, one point higher than the state average, 30-day tobacco use among 6th and 8th graders is zero percent. The survey indicates smoking is occurring after the 10th Grade.

The state average for vaping among 9th through 12th graders is 25.4 percent. 10th graders at Dayton High School reported an average of 45 percent use in the past 30 days. Vaping is the most commonly used delivery system for nicotine and THC, according to school administrators.

Of the students who consumed alcohol within the last 30-day period, 10th graders reported obtaining alcohol from a friend. Students in grades 8 or 12, got it from home, with permission.

Sixty-five percent of students in grades 8-12 said they viewed alcohol as easy to obtain.

Anecdotally, families commonly drink together when gathering for outdoor activities in the mountains.

Missing from the 2018 Healthy Youth Survey is an assessment from the LGBTQ student community. There is data indicating this population has a higher rate of mental health problems and substance misuse. A recommendation has been made to include this population in future Healthy Use Surveys.

From this data the Coalition has been able to identify many factors that create risk for youth, including; friends who use, availability of drugs and alcohol, the low perception of harm, favorable parental attitudes about substance use, and experiencing poor mental health, which contributes to substance use.

Eaton said protective factors are fairly strong in the community with regard to: community engagement with students, the school/community connection, bullying prevention, overall school experience satisfaction, and student perception that there are adults they can turn to for support.

The Coalition is also finishing a Community Survey, which will help them understand the greater community perceptions with regard to substance use issues.

Eaton said so far there are 140 respondents to that survey, 75 percent of them women.

“We want to continue to champion the message to all adults in our community that parents are the number one influence on their teens' decisions on alcohol and other drug use,” Eaton said.

Substance abuse prevention leadership in Dayton has gone through a variety of changes in the past few years, one of which took place when Peggy Guiterrez retired as the Drug Free Grant Coordinator for the Coalition, in March of 2017.

At that time, the Coalition made the decision not to reapply for an additional five years of that grant because of lack of technical assistance and the extra requirements of the grant.

The Coalition continued with help from the county’s Wellness and Prevention Initiative funds, in partnership with Blue Mountain Counseling.

When Jennifer Price resigned as the Coalition Coordinator last spring, the county decided to direct the funds from the County Prevention and Wellness Initiative to the health department.

Eaton said the health department and the county signed a contract in November, and she has been working as quickly as she can to help the Coalition members craft an updated strategic plan for submission to the state Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery Board, in Olympia.

The importance of the strategic plan is to make sure what happens in the Coalition matches what is happening in the community, she said.

Eaton said she wants to make sure people have a buy-in and invites membership in the Coalition.

CFYF meets on the second Tuesday of each month in the Delany Building at 9 a.m. For more information, contact Chelsey Eaton, Program Coordinator/CPWI Coalition Coordinator by phone at: 382-2181


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