GALLIPOLIS — The newly formed Teen Coalition of the Gallia County Citizens for Prevention and Recovery gathered at the Bossard Memorial Library in early July.
This was the second meeting of the group, which originally began as a series of meetings and forums about violence in society. Representatives from Health Recovery Services’ prevention division, the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) and the faith community met with youth to continue formulating their vision for the future.
“Our region has had its fair share of trouble for generations,” said AJ Stack, local priest and member of Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery. “The factory and mining jobs that sustained us have all but disappeared, people have struggled with poverty for generations. And what more can be said about the opioid epidemic that hasn’t already been said? The children of our county are filled with hope, though. They are determined to make a difference in their community. And we adults are privileged to give them the gift of our own experience and skill. We can give that hope a fighting chance.”
The group has determined to focus on three primary goals. The first goal is to develop a core group of what it considers trusting adults to whom youth can turn for confidential advice and guidance. The second goal is to provide Gallia County’s youth with mentoring as they grow into well-rounded and productive adult members of our community. The final goal is to promote healthy and supportive peer relationships.
The coalition is committed to being youth-led. In Stack’s words, the youth-led prevention is not adults telling youth, “don’t use drugs” or “seek help if you are feeling depressed,” having a “token” youth at the table or inviting youth to an activity. Rather, it is youth hearing directly from their peers about how to handle issues; youth having the primary voice in planning, decision-making, implementation, evaluation, and recognition; and youth leadership throughout coalition decisions.
The adults involved will lend their expertise and experience as people who have faced many of the same issues faced by today’s youth.
“Adult allies serve as guides and play and important role in the process alongside youth in youth-led prevention,” said Angela Stowers, deputy director of the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Board of ADAMHS. “We are happy to have trained, certified preventionists from Health Recovery Services to help guide this process and bring the necessary evidence-based practices that have proven most successful. These prevention professionals, along with other adult volunteers from CPR, the faith community, and other organizations will be trained to be partners, allies and guides to the youth coalition. They will be present to foster equal involvement, provide safety, run interference with adult systems when needed and provide expertise and training.”
The group also has hopes that their work might encourage and support local Gallia County youth to join with others from throughout the state.
“Ohio has a ‘Youth Led Prevention Network,’ which is a joint effort between Prevention Action Alliance and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. It would be fantastic to get youth from our area involved and representing at the state level,” said Stowers.
The Teen Coalition will have its next meeting at 6 p.m. on August 28 in the Switzer Room of Bossard Memorial Library. The larger CPR group meets on the second Monday of each month in the French 500 room of Holzer Hospital. Any adult or youth is invited to attend and join the coalition’s efforts.