Kicking off week 6 of the Hope Dealer podcast series, Ed McDonough, CEO of GateHouse Treatment talks about how prevention is the first step to take against the substance misuse epidemic we’re seeing today. Ed brings in Lisa Vasquez from the Nashua Department of Public Health Community Services and the Substance Misuse Prevention Coordinator. Lisa’s main goal is to give kids the tools they need to cope with life, a large part of prevention is being open and honest.
Many programs have been used state and nationwide such as the D.A.R.E Program, which didn’t so much address the underlying issues that may cause children and teenagers to turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place.
Issues like bullying, low self-esteem and insecurities can make kids as young as elementary and middle school turn to something unhealthy to escape with. Social and emotional development and regulation are a vital part of school besides education. When starting a prevention program at this prominent time in the lives of children it must be catered to them in an honest way. Lisa points out that in past programs kids were talked at, not talked to or with.
Sadly, some children in the communities’ lives have already been affected through no choice of their own. Camp Mariposa through the Nashua Boys and Girls Club is a prevention program for kids aged 9-12 whose lives have been affected by substance misuse disorders in their families. The camp offers weekend camps every other weekend and allows children support exercises along with traditional camp activities to show they’re not alone and to give them a place where they are safe. The program recently got a grant to expand the program to teenagers as well. This can only benefit the community further.
The other side of the coin to prevention is education. Learning how to properly talk about substance misuse disorder is a huge part of how we as a community can come together to address the issues presented by the epidemic. Not using “addict” and the “j-word” can help bridge the gap of the stigma versus people who are struggling with a mental disorder.
“It’s important to give people their humanity first and foremost because their disease does not define who they are. They define who they are” Lisa made sure to point out that people are people, no matter what they are struggling with.
Another preventative measure the greater Nashua area is implementing is the Lock It Up! campaign, it urges citizens to lock up prescription medications to help prevent it being abused. It also gives parents a chance to talk to their kids about the dangers of prescription medications and even over the counter medications. Ed points out how a medicine cabinet was his best drug dealer for a long time because its ease of access. There are prescription disposal services for unused medications located at many hospitals and police stations in the Nashua area. For more information on the Lock It Up! campaign visit http://www.nashuacares.org/?page_id=720 which gives more in-depth information on the new initiative.