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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Rhoad

2021-2022 Year in Review

Smithville Community in Action is a coalition of volunteers committee to changing the culture about youth substance misuse. Entering its 20th year serving in the community to keep youth in Smithville safe, the coalition is in its 4th year of funding from the federal Drug Free Communities grant program.

This year, the coalition met the community where they were and provided support for many community events from the Haunted Campground at Smith’s Fork Park to the back to school nights.

The Senior Trading Card Program is a group of young adults making decisions to be drug, alcohol, and tobacco-free. They hope to provide a safe environment by being considerate, responsible, and humble to the people in our community. They are a diverse group of students who make posters, flyers, write segments in the daily announcements, write for the high school newsletter and make videos for the school’s closed media network. The students learn about a different prevention topic each month and share that information with their peers. They cover vaping, drugged/drunk driving, marijuana and prescription drugs among other topics.

The "trading card" program also allows elementary school students to turn in “Tribe tickets” to have lunch with one of these awesome Senior mentors. The coalition did a lot this year to positively recognize these outstanding Seniors including highlighting their accomplishments in their athletics or activites. The coalition also did an extensive social media campaign featuring each trading card student three times before they graduated. Each year we have a composite of the Seniors made to hang in the high school and we also take out a full page ad in the Senior edition of the paper.

This year, we added a cookies and cake reception and invited over 200 elementary students to come meet these Seniors before their scholarship banquet. Also new this year, we awarded 3 scholarships that recognize seniors who, throughout their high school career, have made a personal commitment to stay free from marijuana, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. These seniors were able to demonstrate that they exercised a positive peer influence on others.

In addition to the local youth coalition, Smithville students also have the opportunity to join a regional youth coalition called Youth With Vision with their peers across the Northland. This year, one of our Smithville seniors served on Youth With Vision’s leadership team doing Public Relations and Social Media. She went to the capital in Jefferson City to visit with elected congressmen about the harms of youth drug use.

Providing this kind of education is also a key part of what the coalition does. Through major media campaigns including Radio PSAs, YouTube Ads, billboards, mailers and banners, the Smithville coalition provided several prevention messages for underage drinking and youth marijuana use prevention.

New this year, the coalition also started featuring Smithville residence on these billboards and banners. This helps the community take note of these messages and gets the community involved as valuable partners in sharing this information.

In addition to these major media campaigns, we also provided information to the community in the display area of the local library.

Training our coalition members is another major part of what we do. We provided in-services at coalition meetings that taught our members more about: the middle school’s implementation of “How Full is Your Cup”; the value of prevention and how much money it saves the community; the school district’s vaping incident report; All Stars Curriculum; Community and Childhood ACES; Hope Squad; the work of Missouri Poison Control and the dramatic increase in accidental marijuana edible ingestion by children under 5 since 2018; the Roots of Resilience action guide; the value of sitting down and having a meaningful meal with youth; the Amendment 3 ballot initiative that could potentially legalize marijuana in Missouri. In addition to these in-services, the coalition sends coalition members to the Missouri Prevention Conference, the HIDTA Prevention Conference, the Northland Prevention Conference and to the nation’s premier prevention training of CADCA Coalition Academy, CADCA Forum and CADCA Mid-Year.

This year the coalition graduated from coalition academy and received recognition at CADCA Forum. We also sent a youth to the leadership training at CADCA Mid-Year for the first time. This will provide valuable training for a student led expansion of the youth coalition to include more than just seniors.

Educating kids how to say no to drugs and why they want to is an important part of the All Stars Curriculum that the coalition supports the school district in teaching. This year was the first year the curriculum was taught to students in 6th, 7th and 8th grade.

To reinforce the positive coping skills taught in All Stars, the coalition coordinates a class gift to each student who participates in All Stars. This year, we purchased sunglasses so they could focus on their ideal futures without the hurdles of risky behaviors like drug use.

We also brought an inflatable mega lung to Horizon Elementary and gave 6th graders from each elementary school the opportunity to learn about the harms of vaping. One side of the lung shows the kids what a healthy lung looks like, while the other shows the inflammation and damage caused by vaping nicotine and marijuana.

The Middle School implemented a program called “How Full is Your Cup” which was initially developed by students for students. It is a program designed to illustrate what kinds of stressors, and other things can fill our cup and not let other things in.

Then they reverse that and talk about protective factors to help make those stressors more manageable.

For our students who drive, we sponsored the back of their parking passes with a visual reminder to stay sober behind the wheel because if they feel different, they will drive different.

We coordinated with Clay County Parks, the Army Corps of Engineers and the marina to implement the Sea Tow Foundations free resource campaign called “Sober Skipper”. We partnered with area businesses including, Captain's Corner, Paradise Outfitters, Sand Bar, Camp Branch Marina and Clay County Parks and Recreation Office to distribute 600 wristbands and pledge cards that encourage boaters to designate a sober boat driver.

A “Sober Skipper” stencil were painted on all 8 boat ramps around Smithville lake. This will ensure that all people who bring their boat and put it into the water see the “Sober Skipper”.

THC Isomers like Delta 8 were being sold by retailers in the Smithville area. We purchased a couple of products and took them to a local lab to have them tested and found that one of the two products had nearly 4% THC 9. After further inspection when the Delta 8 sticker was removed from the product, it clearly showed a warning label of THC underneath. This information was passed on to local and county law enforcement, Midwest HIDTA, local prosecutors, and the state agriculture and health departments We created a report with information about THC isomers and sent it along with business names, and addresses to county prosecutors and the Department of Health and Senior Services. Our county prosecutor, and the neighboring county prosecutor came together for a press conference to announce “Operation Delta-Free Youth”. As part of this operation law enforcement in Smithville hand delivered cease and desist letters to area businesses.

In addition to this activity, we also hosted a Facebook Live webinar about THC isomer products featuring an organic chemist and a psychiatrist. Jonathan Rhoad, Professor of Organic Chemistry at Missouri Western State University described how similar the structures of Delta 8, THC 9 and Delta 10 are to each other. These similar structures mean that they will have similar effects on the brain. James Jura, Jr., Medical Director and Psychiatrist at The CENTER, a Samaritan Center, talked about how these products effect the brain and interfere with a person’s everyday activities, leading to problem behavior.

We also work with our local alcohol and tobacco retailers each year to provide sticker and window cling warnings and education to retailers. We also thank them for being the first line of defense against selling to underage minors and publicly

thank them when they successfully pass a law enforcement compliance check.

We also worked with the city to update their no smoking signs to more positive messaging that included vaping. Our school sector also updated their signs.

Using local data, we know that times of celebration like graduation are times when students engage in risky behaviors. Annually we put out banners and send letters to Senior and 8th grade parents reminding them to help their student celebrate sober.

Other local data showed us that students were vulnerable to drug misuse when hanging out with friends at some of the remote and isolated locations around the lake. We worked with the Parks and Rec office to create a mobile selfie station that can be moved near where students are hanging out to encourage more tourist traffic so these locations are not so isolated.

The coalition also worked with churches in the area and local parent groups to host 5th quarter events after the home football games to address this local condition. We wanted to help host these alternative events to give students a fun and supervised activity to do. Not only does this activity prevent youth drug misuse on the night of the event, but when students see adults making such an effort to keep them safe, they grow up knowing that they can thrive with strong community support.

The box fort challenge is a way to help families spend quality time together which is an important protective factor to develop resilient kids who know how to say no to drugs.

In it’s second year, the Smithville 5K and Family Fun run is the major fundraising event for the coalition. Money raised from this event helps us pay for activities that aren’t covered by the DFC grant including scholarships for Seniors.

Smithville CIA partners with sectors across our community and engages them in ongoing problem solving to prevent youth substance use and create resilient youth. Invite someone to join us at one of our Coffee with CIA events to recruit new coalition members.

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