Underage drinking, drug abuse is declining

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The latest New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey report shows that underage drinking and drug abuse in Valencia County declined in 2011 from 2009, although it is still slightly higher than the state average.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Dubra Karnes-Padilla, advisory board president of the UNM-VC Resiliency Corps, studies the information revealed by Valencia County youth in the New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey report in order to help mobilize evidence-based prevention strategies.

The NMYRRS report data has been taken from surveys of middle school and high school students each fall of every odd year since its inception in 2003.

The surveys don’t take long to complete, and students’ identities are anonymous.

The state project, part of the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance program tailored for New Mexico, is the result of a joint effort by the New Mexico Departments of Health and Public Education to assess risk behaviors and resiliency factors among New Mexico youth.

The project is supported with assistance from the University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center, the Division of Adolescent and School Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To take advantage of the survey findings from Valencia County youth, two educators from the UNM-Valencia Campus, Dominic Capello and Dubra Karnes-Padilla, applied for a grant to form the Valencia County Youth Safety, Health and Resiliency Corps to advocate and mobilize evidence-based prevention strategies.

The objective is to prevent youth injury related to motor vehicles, alcohol and drug abuse, drug overdose, suicide and violence, and build a safe, healthy, and resilient community, said Karnes-Padilla.

“If you’re not feeling good about yourself … the likelihood that you’re going to partake in alcohol, be more easily influenced, try to commit suicide, use drugs — they’re all tied together,” Karnes-Padilla said. “That’s why behavioral health counseling and treatment have to be available to our youth and to our families, too.”

Poverty plays a large role in how youth grow up, and New Mexico is listed as the poorest state in the nation.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, New Mexico has the highest number of people below the poverty level.

“When there’s inequality, there’s more violence, there’s more lack of trust, there’s all sorts of things that are happening,” Karnes-Padilla said.

In her studies on poverty and income disparity, she has learned about correlations between poverty and teen suicide, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and how greater equality can make societies stronger.

“A living wage changes your society,” she said. “A middle class changes your society, and when you start to lose that, you have big problems.”

At the most basic level, young people need food, clothing, housing, health care and safety, but they also need consistent guidance from caregivers, education and training, transportation, phone, Internet, and most also need some counseling to learn coping and conflict resolution skills, and some need substance abuse treatment, Karnes-Padilla said.

While large factors such as poverty play a role in the health and well-being of youth and families, grassroots initiatives by parents, school officials, community members and leaders play a crucial role in immediate injury prevention for young people at the local level.

The survey information is a tool and can provide eligibility for grants to fund prevention programs for the schools, municipalities, county and community.

One of the evidence-based strategies in Europe, which Sweden has adopted, is a higher taxation (much higher than in the United States) on alcohol and drugs in order to provide the necessary funding for prevention and treatment programs.

“When you pay for things, when you tax people, and I know people hate that word, but those societies have much more money to do good things with,” said Karnes-Padilla.

Evidence-based prevention programs vary from school policies to having big after school programs to having more art programs in the school, music and activities for kids to do, as well as mentoring programs such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters. And it’s always cheaper to prevent than to treat afterwards, she said.

According to the New Mexico Office of Vital Records, the state is No. 1 in the country for drug overdose death rates, and according to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, Valencia County ranks fifth in substantiated child abuse cases, sixth in teen and young adult suicides, eighth in unintentional drug induced deaths, and 13th in alcohol-related deaths compared with the 32 other counties.

Correlations can be deduced from the information given by county youth on the YRRS and how they behave.

“Children who felt that their parents were less involved in their life, less caring toward them, used their seat belts less,” said Karnes-Padilla.

Almost 50 percent of those who had been in a fight in the past 12 months said they didn’t feel they had a teacher or other adult who believed in them, 45 percent felt their family had no clear standards for behavior or in school, and almost 47 percent said they didn’t feel they had a teacher who really cared about them. About 26 percent of the teens didn’t even feel they had a friend their own age who really cared about them.

“This tells us that there is a correlation in our children’s other behaviors versus these protective factors,” said Karnes-Padilla. “If they’re lacking them … this data is important to let us know how our children are feeling.”

Valencia County high schools participated in the 2011 survey, but only 16 percent of the middle schools participated.

“It’s unfortunate, because if we’re looking for grants to target that population, if we’re looking to assess how successful we are with the programs in place — to actually get some real scientific data on that using the YRRS, we don’t necessarily have it,” she said.

In 2009, there was full middle school participation. One of the proactive measures taken from the survey data was to initiate a bicycle helmet program, which has proven successful in reducing brain injuries in district children.

“We have seen a reduction in alcohol use in our youth,” Karnes-Padilla said. “In our DWI prevention, or our drug and alcohol prevention programs that we have in place, (the programs) are working. We’ve seen a reduction in violence in our schools because our mentoring programs, our conflict management programs — whatever we’ve put into place — are working.”

The UNM-VC Resiliency Corps is a five-year project funded by the Department of Health in collaboration with UNM-VC. It is a pilot project and the only one of its kind in the state using the YRRS data results to foster improvements using evidence-based strategies.

The Resiliency Corps has been developing a sustainable county-based model for injury, violence and substance abuse prevention, and developed a three credit hour college course at UNM-VC.

“We have had stakeholders from faith-based organizations, law enforcement, civic organizations, schools, city government, EMTs, college students, public health, head start (and others) enroll in the course,” Karnes-Padilla said.

“… I would highly encourage all the middle schools in Valencia County that are asked to be part of the survey — be part of the survey,” Karnes-Padilla said.

The Youth Resiliency Corps has also started a resource directory on its website at www.rcourse.org, and will link in to the Valencia County page on the Share New Mexico website at www.sharenm.org.

A group of county service providers and youth advocacy groups are working to establish a central Valencia County resource directory of essential connections for the page.

The whole thrust of the central directory is to pull together all the services, providers, nonprofits and other resources available to county residents in one, easily accessible central location.

The Resiliency Corps is partnering with Share NM and are planning a town hall meeting in April.

“This would be to bring all the coalitions together, and all the stakeholders together to look at how this resource directory will be valuable, but also to look at the issues, and what we need for our families and our youth to be a resilient community,” Karnes-Padilla said.

A resilient community is able to bounce back from adversity and land on their feet, she said.

“The more resilient and protective factors you have … you can weather the storm, you can weather a (hurricane) Sandy,” Karnes-Padilla said. “It’s not easy, but you have those personality traits, those things that will help you.”

The New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey results can be accessed by the public at www.youthrisk.org.

For information about how to talk to youth about drugs and alcohol, visit the DWI Prevention service website at www.letstalkvalencia.org, The federal Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System report is available at www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/.

WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO:

• Read the NMYRRS 2011 report to learn more about the risks and protective data for youth in Valencia County at www.youthrisk.org
• Visit the Resiliency Corps website at www.recourse.org for more information about community education, events, forums, trainings and workshops, or contact the Resiliency Corps manager Angelica Boyle at akozicki@unm.edu or 925-8560
• Enroll in the UNM-VC course “Youth Safety, Health, and Resiliency in Valencia County,” HEd 293 online to learn more about the youth injury problem, evidence-based strategies to address the problem and available resources. Contact Boyle to register.
• Become involved in local coalitions such as the Community Wellness Council, Resiliency Corps, Juvenile Justice Board, the District Attorney’s Valencia County Coordinated Community Response Team, DWI Council, YDI, Literacy Council, Early Childhood Advocacy Group, Domestic Violence Shelter Services, Valencia Roundtable, Main Street Project, Friends of Whitfield, Friends of the Library, Belen Art League, Walkable Belen, Community Garden Groups, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Ministerial Alliance, and local civic organizations such as the Pilot Club, Civitans, Kiwanis, Rotary Club, Food Bank and others to advocate for evidence-based prevention strategies.
• Attend school board meetings, join school parent groups, attend city council and county commission meetings and advocate for evidence-based prevention strategies, laws and policies to protect youth and families.
• Contact your local representatives and advocate for evidence-based prevention laws to protect youth and families.

By Deborah Fox
News-Bulletin Staff Writer
dfox@news-bulletin.com
Los Lunas
The latest New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey report shows that underage drinking and drug abuse in Valencia County declined in 2011 from 2009, although it is still slightly higher than the state average.
The NMYRRS report data has been taken from surveys of middle school and high school students each fall of every odd year since its inception in 2003.
The surveys don’t take long to complete, and students’ identities are anonymous.
The state project, part of the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance program tailored for New Mexico, is the result of a joint effort by the New Mexico Departments of Health and Public Education to assess risk behaviors and resiliency factors among New Mexico youth.
The project is supported with assistance from the University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center, the Division of Adolescent and School Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To take advantage of the survey findings from Valencia County youth, two educators from the UNM-Valencia Campus, Dominic Capello and Dubra Karnes-Padilla, applied for a grant to form the Valencia County Youth Safety, Health and Resiliency Corps to advocate and mobilize evidence-based prevention strategies.
The objective is to prevent youth injury related to motor vehicles, alcohol and drug abuse, drug overdose, suicide and violence, and build a safe, healthy, and resilient community, said Karnes-Padilla.
“If you’re not feeling good about yourself … the likelihood that you’re going to partake in alcohol, be more easily influenced, try to commit suicide, use drugs — they’re all tied together,” Karnes-Padilla said. “That’s why behavioral health counseling and treatment have to be available to our youth and to our families, too.”
Poverty plays a large role in how youth grow up, and New Mexico is listed as the poorest state in the nation.
According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, New Mexico has the highest number of people below the poverty level.
“When there’s inequality, there’s more violence, there’s more lack of trust, there’s all sorts of things that are happening,” Karnes-Padilla said.
In her studies on poverty and income disparity, she has learned about correlations between poverty and teen suicide, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and how greater equality can make societies stronger.
“A living wage changes your society,” she said. “A middle class changes your society, and when you start to lose that, you have big problems.”
At the most basic level, young people need food, clothing, housing, health care and safety, but they also need consistent guidance from caregivers, education and training, transportation, phone, Internet, and most also need some counseling to learn coping and conflict resolution skills, and some need substance abuse treatment, Karnes-Padilla said.
While large factors such as poverty play a role in the health and well-being of youth and families, grassroots initiatives by parents, school officials, community members and leaders play a crucial role in immediate injury prevention for young people at the local level.
The survey information is a tool and can provide eligibility for grants to fund prevention programs for the schools, municipalities, county and community.
One of the evidence-based strategies in Europe, which Sweden has adopted, is a higher taxation (much higher than in the United States) on alcohol and drugs in order to provide the necessary funding for prevention and treatment programs.
“When you pay for things, when you tax people, and I know people hate that word, but those societies have much more money to do good things with,” said Karnes-Padilla.
Evidence-based prevention programs vary from school policies to having big after school programs to having more art programs in the school, music and activities for kids to do, as well as mentoring programs such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters. And it’s always cheaper to prevent than to treat afterwards, she said.
According to the New Mexico Office of Vital Records, the state is No. 1 in the country for drug overdose death rates, and according to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, Valencia County ranks fifth in substantiated child abuse cases, sixth in teen and young adult suicides, eighth in unintentional drug induced deaths, and 13th in alcohol-related deaths compared with the 32 other counties.
Correlations can be deduced from the information given by county youth on the YRRS and how they behave.
“Children who felt that their parents were less involved in their life, less caring toward them, used their seat belts less,” said Karnes-Padilla.
Almost 50 percent of those who had been in a fight in the past 12 months said they didn’t feel they had a teacher or other adult who believed in them, 45 percent felt their family had no clear standards for behavior or in school, and almost 47 percent said they didn’t feel they had a teacher who really cared about them. About 26 percent of the teens didn’t even feel they had a friend their own age who really cared about them.
“This tells us that there is a correlation in our children’s other behaviors versus these protective factors,” said Karnes-Padilla. “If they’re lacking them … this data is important to let us know how our children are feeling.”
Valencia County high schools participated in the 2011 survey, but only 16 percent of the middle schools participated.
“It’s unfortunate, because if we’re looking for grants to target that population, if we’re looking to assess how successful we are with the programs in place — to actually get some real scientific data on that using the YRRS, we don’t necessarily have it,” she said.
In 2009, there was full middle school participation. One of the proactive measures taken from the survey data was to initiate a bicycle helmet program, which has proven successful in reducing brain injuries in district children.
“We have seen a reduction in alcohol use in our youth,” Karnes-Padilla said. “In our DWI prevention, or our drug and alcohol prevention programs that we have in place, (the programs) are working. We’ve seen a reduction in violence in our schools because our mentoring programs, our conflict management programs — whatever we’ve put into place — are working.”
The UNM-VC Resiliency Corps is a five-year project funded by the Department of Health in collaboration with UNM-VC. It is a pilot project and the only one of its kind in the state using the YRRS data results to foster improvements using evidence-based strategies.
The Resiliency Corps has been developing a sustainable county-based model for injury, violence and substance abuse prevention, and developed a three credit hour college course at UNM-VC.
“We have had stakeholders from faith-based organizations, law enforcement, civic organizations, schools, city government, EMTs, college students, public health, head start (and others) enroll in the course,” Karnes-Padilla said.
“… I would highly encourage all the middle schools in Valencia County that are asked to be part of the survey — be part of the survey,” Karnes-Padilla said.
The Youth Resiliency Corps has also started a resource directory on its website at www.rcourse.org, and will link in to the Valencia County page on the Share New Mexico website at www.sharenm.org.
A group of county service providers and youth advocacy groups are working to establish a central Valencia County resource directory of essential connections for the page.
The whole thrust of the central directory is to pull together all the services, providers, nonprofits and other resources available to county residents in one, easily accessible central location.
The Resiliency Corps is partnering with Share NM and are planning a town hall meeting in April.
“This would be to bring all the coalitions together, and all the stakeholders together to look at how this resource directory will be valuable, but also to look at the issues, and what we need for our families and our youth to be a resilient community,” Karnes-Padilla said.
A  resilient community is able to bounce back from adversity and land on their feet, she said.
“The more resilient and protective factors you have … you can weather the storm, you can weather a (hurricane) Sandy,” Karnes-Padilla said. “It’s not easy, but you have those personality traits, those things that will help you.”
The New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey results can be accessed by the public at www.youthrisk.org.
For information about how to talk to youth about drugs and alcohol, visit the DWI Prevention service website at www.letstalkvalencia.org, The federal Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System report is available at www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.