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Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the Easthampton Healthy Youth Coalition?

The Coalition is a group of people from various sectors of the community who care about keeping Easthampton’s youth as healthy as possible, protecting them from using drugs, and supporting families in this.

What is the Coalition’s mission?

Our mission is to reduce and prevent underage drinking, drug use and other risky behaviors, and promote positive and healthy choices for Easthampton youth and families to improve the quality of life for all.

When was the Coalition established?

In 2008, the Easthampton Prevention Task Force was created as an extension of the Strategic Planning for Family and Youth (SPIFFY) based in Northampton. This Task Force was created to address underage alcohol and drug use in Easthampton. In 2013, after we won a competitive federal grant, the task force was renamed to the Easthampton Healthy Youth Coalition (EHYC).

How is the Coalition funded?

EHYC is funded almost exclusively through a Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The $125,000 a year grant is administered through another government body, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and we get technical assistance from a third one: the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). The grant is for 5 years, and we are currently in Year 4 of our funding (Year 5 begins on October 1, 2017). If we are successful in showing outcomes, we can apply for a second 5 year grant in 2018.

What is the Coalition’s structure?

The grant required position of Project Director is filled by Julie Anne Levin, Director of Curriculum/Grants Manager for Easthampton Public Schools, who oversees and approves all activities. Julie Anne’s role is to ensure that we are complying with the requirements of our grant; her position is considered “in-kind” and she spends a couple of hours a week on average on coalition work. There is a full time paid Coalition Coordinator, Ruth Ever who holds a Master’s in Public Health and has been in the field for over 20 years. Recently hired is Community Outreach Liaison, Corinne Briggs. Both Corinne and Ruth organize and plan Coalition activities out of White Brook Middle School.

What is the focus of the Coalition?

As part of the DFC grant, we are charged with creating programs, activities, and campaigns that are based on proven methods that help lower underage alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana use. These three substances are targeted based on data collected by the school district every 2 years which show they are the most used substances by minors under 18 years old here in Easthampton. Although it’s worth noting that the vast majority of teens had not used any of these in a 30 day period when asked on the survey in 2015.

It has been shown that if a person waits until they’re at least 21 (ideally, closer to 25) to use alcohol, nicotine, or marijuana, their likelihood of addiction or permanent harm is decreased significantly. We do focus some of our time on opioids and heroin, because there is a serious epidemic happening, but that is not the primary focus of our coalition since our focus is on underage youth. We know that reducing underage alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana use may contribute to a decline in heroin/opioid use later on.

Our funder is most interested in strategies that have a wide impact—such as environmental strategies like policy changes, and wide audience reach programs like marketing campaigns. This could include for example, advocating for raising the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 years, or the parent social norms marketing campaign the coalition ran in 2016.

Specifically, we have two goals from our funder:

1) Increase community collaboration and;         
2) Decrease youth substance use.
The strategies we use to address these depend on what the needs and resources are in our community. You can see a summary chart of our Year 3 action plan: Goal 1 and Goal 2.

Does the Coalition lobby?

We do not lobby. We receive federal funds, which prohibits us from explicitly urging anyone to vote on specific legislation or regulations. We have met with U.S. Representatives and Senators to explain the importance of DFC funding or related funding, and other applicable bills related to substance use prevention. We have also met with local policymakers to explain the significance of strong local policies, and highlight model regulations that can effectively protect youth in Easthampton or Massachusetts. In recent years, we have presented on alcohol policies that can restrict underage access, spoken to City Council about the importance of considering how any policies might impact our youth, and discussed best practices regarding e-cigarettes and tobacco to the board of health. So while we don’t push for specific passages of laws, we do have an understanding of the best practices and recommended model regulations that might effect underage use and we try to bring these to the attention of key decision makers in our community.