What do you remember about your childhood?
Celebrating special holidays? Reveling in the first spring outing to the local ice cream stand? Or maybe traveling for a long-awaited family vacation?
How about the anxiety around the first day of school? Painstaking attempts to navigate cliques and hormones and adolescence? Even with all the fun memories, growing up isn’t always easy. Tack on the challenges all of us have faced over the last two years and it’s not surprising that many of us – children and youth especially – are struggling with mental health issues. For some, substance use might be an appealing short-term “solution.”
At Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, our Substance Abuse Prevention Program provides education and supports that strengthen youths’ ability to address challenges with means other than substance use. The program works within classrooms across seven different school districts in Fulton and Montgomery Counties from Pre-K to 12th grade. Using evidence-based curricula, staff work with youth on their emotional and social skills, and to build their self-esteem. The aim is to prevent or delay the use of substances including alcohol and tobacco.
The program also provides education to teachers and parents through training, newsletters, or information for school district websites, so they can better support children and identify potential red flags.
Catholic Charities also works with youth who are already actively using through the Teen Intervene Program for students ages 12-19. Schools can refer youth to the program after they’ve been caught vaping, drinking, or using in some way. Staff meet with them one-on-one and provide further referrals for treatment and counseling as needed.
Substance abuse prevention work can be challenging, but Program Director Denise Benton knows it’s needed: staff have seen children as young as 11 years old use. But they also see small and large victories of the program on a daily basis. Sometimes these successes are only visible years later.
In one such instance, Kayleigh, whose name has been changed out of respect for her privacy, was at risk of not graduating as drug use led to poor school performance and risky behavior. Through the Substance Abuse Prevention Program, Kayleigh worked with staff to address her substance use and successfully graduate among her peers. Nearly a year later, when she was home from break, Kayleigh returned to school, where she let us know that she is successfully attending college and remains clean.
Catholic Charities operates three different substance abuse prevention programs. If you or someone you know is in need of support, help is available:
Catholic Charities of Columbia & Greene Counties: (518) 828-8660
Catholic Charities of Fulton & Montgomery Counties: (518) 842-4202
Catholic Charities of Herkimer County: (315) 894-9917
NYS HOPEline: 1-877-8-HOPENY