Kathy Sullivan, The BAY Team
The Barrington Adult and Youth (BAY) Team
Kathy Sullivan, Program Director
Prevention Focus: Marijuana, prescription drugs, community collaboration
In this interview, Kathy Sullivan discusses the BAY Team’s innovative, community-based approach to marijuana and prescription drug abuse prevention.
What is the primary purpose of the BAY team?
Our mission is to create a safe and healthy Barrington through communication and collaboration. Our work has two main goals. First, we want to establish and strengthen community collaboration to prevent and reduce substance use among youth. We also want to address factors in our community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promote factors that minimize it in order to reduce substance abuse among adults as well.
Barrington was awarded a Marijuana and Other Drug Initiative contract from BHDDH. How is this initiative different from other prevention work that the BAY Team participates in?
The Marijuana and Other Drug Initiative addresses the rising rate of teen marijuana use in our community. According to data gathered about Barrington in 2011, the average Barrington student begins to use marijuana at age 14. Twenty-four percent of Barrington High School students have used marijuana in the past 30 days, and this rate has been consistent since 2009. Eighty-two percent of Barrington Middle School and 38% of High School students perceive the risk of harm from regular marijuana use. This is a decrease from the 2009 rates of 85% and 47%, respectively. Meanwhile, 30% of students say it is very easy to get marijuana and 22% say it is very easy to get alcohol, which is an increase from 2009 rates of 24% and 17%, respectively.
%CODE1%In 2010, we formed a committee to address this problem. The marijuana committee works on creative ways to educate parents and community leaders. In the past the group partnered with neighboring towns East Providence, Bristol and Warren to create a media insert for local newspapers in response to school representatives’ and health teachers’ request for tools to address the growing concern about youth marijuana use.
This grant has allowed the committee to fund some important efforts, including the purchase of a health curriculum devoted to educating youth about the risks and dangers of marijuana use, and training for high school faculty.
What are some of the other emerging prevention issues being addressed by the BAY Team?
The BAY Team has an active prescription drug committee that works with the local police department to host semi-annual drug take-back events. The group also works to raise community awareness about prescription drug misuse and has distributed lock boxes for residents to use in the home to reduce access to dangerous prescription drugs. This spring, the committee will host a conference about stress.
Additionally, we have a strong policy committee that is working to strengthen local ordinances. The group worked with the town council and business community to pass an ordinance mandating a local annual training for all servers and sellers of alcohol to supplement the Responsible Beverage Service Training, which is only required every three years.
What about prevention work inspires you and your community partners?
We are inspired by our coalition volunteers, who dedicate countless hours to creating a safe place for children to grow into strong and healthy adults. Prevention work also provides the opportunity to know all sectors of one’s community – it truly is a community effort.
We are also fortunate to be in a state with some amazing prevention leaders. We are always inspired by our colleagues at MADD, the Ocean State Prevention Alliance, the Substance Abuse Task Force Leaders, and RI Student Assistance Services.
In the course of a day, we might meet with the superintendent of schools, work with YMCA staff, help students organizing a concert, go to the police station for a drug collection, and talk with senior citizens. All in one day! It’s always a challenge, but uniquely rewarding and never dull.
In the event of a mental health or substance use crisis, call to connect with a licensed counselor, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Bilingual support and medications to assist with recovery are available.