New and Noteworthy in our community
According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), every day an estimated 7,900 people aged 12 or older use drugs for the first time in the U.S. In an unprecedented show of solidarity in the quest to keep local teens alcohol- and drug-free, the clergy in Mount Kisco have used their time of worship this past week to communicate the prevention message to their respective congregations. Spearheading this initiative has been Mount Kisco Partners in Prevention, a coalition of community sectors organized through the Mount Kisco Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Council.
Dr. Nan Miller, coordinator of the Partners in Prevention coalition, says the response from the faith community has been encouraging. “We reached out to all the houses of worship in the community over the summer,” Miller explained. Perry Wooten, a Partners in Prevention member and himself a retired pastor, took on the challenge of coordinating participation and developed the focus on a single week and a unified message.
Miller reports that “a number of local congregations participated this week,” agreeing to use some portion of their weekly religious service to address the need to help teens make healthy choices. The coalition made background information on substance use available to congregation leaders, provided a printed sheet that worshippers could take home with them to reinforce the message, and in one house of worship, shared in delivering the sermon.
Invited to speak at Bet Torah synagogue by Rabbi Aaron Brusso at the September 27 service, Dr. Miller shared the perspective she has gleaned on teen substance abuse from her years of work as both a therapist and a student assistance counselor. Stressing the efficacy of approaching substance use among teens from a prevention, rather than a treatment, stance, she offered specific suggestions to families on how they can best protect their children from involvement with substances.
Miller’s advice included creating an environment of open communication about drugs and alcohol in the home and making parental disapproval clear and unwavering; following through on consequences; sharing family meals together frequently and regularly; and living as role models of how to handle alcohol and prescription drugs.
Encouragement was offered to continue the family’s involvement in practicing their faith. Miller pointed out that research shows young people who have a meaningful connection to a faith community are more likely to remain alcohol- and drug-free.
One additional suggestion—volunteering together as a family—was particularly in evidence at the United Methodist Church of Mount Kisco, where Reverend Karen Burger joined her prevention message this week with a spotlight on young parishioners reporting on their work for the Appalachia Service Project this summer. Tying it all together, Pastor Burger referenced “the transformative power of service,” and underscored the connection between “positive opportunities for fellowship and service” and the ability of a young person to resist adopting drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms.
Another Mount Kisco participant in this week’s faith initiative was St. Francis A.M.E. Zion Church, where Reverend Earl Lewis urged his congregation to “preserve and protect our youth, and give them the choices that lead to wholeness and healthiness.” He will be incorporating the prevention message into his Community Day activities on October 4, and a joint service planned with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester on October 12 as well.
Based on the success of this first community-wide attempt to spread the prevention message with the coordinated help of Mount Kisco’s faith leaders, Dr. Miller is hopeful of more widespread participation in the next effort. “Working with the clergy has been so meaningful, we are inspired to reach even higher next time. A county-wide faith initiative is being discussed. We have many wonderful coalitions like ours throughout Westchester, and the message is so very important to us all.”