GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia County Health Department, along with the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMH) Board and other local coalitions are working together to promote smoking education and prevention.
During the March meeting of the Gallia County Citizens for Prevention and Recovery (CPR), a discussion was led on completing a Community-Level Youth Development Evaluation (CLYDE) in the local schools, starting with the Gallipolis City Schools.
“The client survey is a community-level youth survey,” said Shannon Dalton, community programming coordinator with the ADAMH Board. “We know the value of data, we know the value of the surveys, everyone’s in agreement on that. But right now, we’ve actually gone back to like, well, this was out first option and what are other options? So, we are actually presently exploring other survey options.”
Dalton said she is in the process of compiling various surveys, as there are different companies providing different surveys with similar end result, depending on what the group is looking to find.
“It could be on potential risk factors, as well as protective factors,” Dalton said. “We can look at things, such as specific behaviors. We can look at how community level perceptions with specifically targeting our youth, so that we can not only as a community, as concerned stakeholders in the community, we can all line our services to fill in those gaps that we may have where we are needed.”
Dalton recently attended the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) national conference exploring resources and learning of current trends.
Dalton said with CPR working as part of the Gallia County Family and Children First Council’s strategic plan, they will be able to add the collaboration without adding additional meetings as CPR is already compiled of various coalitions and partners.
One aspect the program is working on is getting more people aware of the coalitions and the community involved said Alana Fraley, director Tobacco Use and Prevention Program – Gallia County Health Department.
The surveys will impact Fraley’s work, as she has traveling to various schools, businesses and neighborhoods to share facts and the dangers of smoking and vaping.
“The surveys, they have so many questions,” Fraley said. “It leads on a lot of different areas, but we’re hoping to find out where the problem is with the vaping and smoking.”
Fraley’s presentations in the Gallipolis City Schools have been for third to 12th grade.
“We see that a lot of their kids are saying either it’s peer pressure onto them, or family life or just a whole bunch of different problems,” Fraley said. “Like they can’t express their selves or anything like that. We’re trying to help them, you know, educate them on what exactly is in a vape, because most of them thinks that it’s just water.”
Fraley said vaping flavors numb lungs to allow for more nicotine to be inhaled. She said the devices include things like embalming fluid and causes burning to the lungs from the inside out.
Parents are sending some of their kids to school with the devices to sell, Fraley said. This is something she is working to educate the students on as well, since it is illegal to contribute to a minor.
Fraley said a large issue with vaping is that it is not regulated but the Food and Drug Administration or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and people believe it is healthier than cigarettes.
“It’s not regulated. So, they don’t have to tell you any information whatsoever,” Fraley said. “Because they don’t know what category to put them in right now. They don’t know because people [are] putting CBD [cannabidiol] and THC [tetrahydrocannabinol], and they’re also putting fentanyl in them now.
“So, people will buy them, put fentanyl in them and try to sell them to kids,” Fraley said. “So, not only are we going into this pandemic of drugs, this has tobacco and drugs in it, all in one. And that’s what we’re facing right now and trying to educate the kids.”
Fraley said Superintendent Craig Wright with the Gallipolis City Schools wanted to educate the students once the problem arose.
“I think, at the high school, they had half a bag of vapes that they confiscated in 30 minutes in the morning,” Fraley said.
Not only is the vaping dangerous, but Fraley said the ways the vapes are hidden and shared provide their own risks.
“Kids are hiding them in their underwear, under their bra because teachers can’t check them,” Fraley said. “I had one student at [a middle school] tell me that they were hiding them in their butt crack and they sell, they’ll take the thing out when a teacher’s not there and they’ll let other people hit off of it for $10. Or they’ll take another one that’s not used and they’re selling them for $25 at the school.”
Fraley said this is spreading COVID, the flu, sexually transmitted diseases like herpes or hepatitis and more. She said she tried to explain how the students were sharing bodily fluids and the risks.
“They didn’t think saliva would do anything,” Fraley said.
Dalton said another positive of having “better insight to issues with the community, what is impacting youth,” is the ability to provide the proper resources, education material and increasing family involvement.
“Adult allies are hoping to utilize this as a platform where they can bring in youth to be members of the youth-led coalition to really promote youth empowerment,” Dalton said. “If they’re falling to peer pressure to that, well guess what? Peer pressure can be positive in that sense.”
When youth share stories of their own battles with addiction, substance use, etc. the positive peer-to-peer influence can promote change, Dalton said.
Dalton said a youth summit is something that is a goal for the future, where students can come and learn about various topics and prevention.
Fraley said they are hoping to get the STAND program, a student-led awareness group, going again after the COVID break.
“Where the kids will go, even if they [go] hand in hand [with] the youth coalition, bring that together and take them into schools and they can do skits for kids, they can tell what all they’re struggling with, and not even smoking and vaping,” Fraley said. “I think it would help with like anxiety, pressures, peer pressures that they’re feeling at home with family members, friends, anything like that.”
Fraley said the prevention education goes beyond just tobacco and vaping. She said any type of substance-related thing can be done.
“They can go into schools, share their stories, so they’re not hearing it from just adults,” Fraley said. “They can go in there and share their thoughts, their feelings and even do little skits.”
Fraley said the current STAND commercial against tobacco that plays at the Silver Screen VII, was made by the students. She said from the idea to the acting to the filming, it is all student led.
“We’re going to give them the reins and we’re here just to guide them and help them with whatever they need from us,” Fraley said.
Currently the CPR is looking into vape detectors for the area schools, but Fraley said the ones that work the best are pricey at approximatley $6,000 a piece.
The idea is to implement the detectors in the middle schools as a type of trial run “because if it doesn’t work at the middle school, it’s not going to work in any of the schools,” Fraley said.
Fraley said during her time in the schools, the students are very open with her.
“They’re very honest,” Fraley said. “‘Oh, nobody will catch us. We have hiding places.’”
The next step for Fraley is working to change policy, trying to encourage 100% smoke-free policies.
“We’re working with local companies to try to change their smoking policies, like to increase them,” Fraley said. “[We’re] going around to local places, businesses and teaching them and telling them how they can help their people with cessation.”
Currently Fraley has spoken to the Gallipolis City Commission in an effort to make the local skate park smoke free.
“I’m hoping that they do pass that,” Fraley said. “If we can get all of that [kid’s area] right there smoke free, that’s what I’m hoping. I hope we can just chisel away a little bit at a time.”
From passing cessation policies to educating the youth and adults to media campaigns, Fraley is working to increase the number of people aware of the dangers of smoking and vaping.
Dalton said Meigs County has had a prevention program, Prevention Day, at the county fair that has been recognized as the only one in the state, something that the ADAMH Board has helped sponsor.
“It was initially started between the ADAMH Board and the sheriff’s department,” Dalton said. “And it kind of grew to include other prevention partners.”
She said a proposal is being put together for a similar type of program to be spearheaded for the Gallia County Junior Fair.
Dalton said the event could include prevention, safety, tobacco, Narcan, “the sky’s the limit.”
For those interested in more prevention or cessation information or would like assistance to quit smoking, they can contact the Gallia County Health Department at 740-441-2018 or the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs ADAMH Board at 740-446-3022.
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.