ANTRIM COUNTY – The best solutions to protect teenagers from the risks of drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse may actually come from the teenagers themselves, according to Amy Brown, Community Health Coordinator for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan.
Brown coordinates the Antrim County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition which, in turn, has paved the way for the formation of the Antrim County Youth Coalition – a group of 15 Mancelona and Bellaire teenagers, age 14-18, who want to help. Brown says Youth Coalition, formed in October 2012, has already hosted multiple successful events to battle substance abuse.
"The Youth Coalition has organized and held two community-wide teen dances," Brown reported. "They came from all over the county – Central Lake, Elk Rapids, Bellaire, Mancelona – we even had home-schooled students in attendance." Brown said she and others from the adult Coalition are always there to chaperone and to support the youth-organized events with technical assistance and guidance.
Brown explained that the purpose of holding social events is to provide Antrim County teenagers with positive alternatives to the boredom that often leads to experimentation and substance abuse. "It's a cool, interactive atmosphere, because it's organized and run by the teenagers themselves," she added. "They've responded with rave reviews. We're looking forward to upcoming events."
Those will include a "top secret" project to address drinking and driving before the upcoming prom season, as well as other future efforts to raise awareness about the serious but little-known risks of prescription drug abuse. According to Drug Free Northern Michigan, prescription drugs are abused by 12 to 17-year-olds more often than ecstasy, crack cocaine, heroine and meth combined.
To learn more about the Antrim County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition or the Antrim County Youth Coalition, contact Brown at (231) 587-4370. Both groups are open to new members. The Youth Coalition hopes to continue its growth, with members representing more schools within Antrim County.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.