We are all being inundated with multi-media information to increase our awareness of the COVID-19 pandemic, from lists of symptoms to what we can do to help prevent the spread of this dangerous disease. If we have flu-like symptoms we should avoid being around other people. This especially applies to our more vulnerable citizens who are older and who also have complicating chronic health conditions such as respiratory problems, diabetes, and hypertension. Our epidemiologists are warning us daily how to be aware of the symptoms, call before going to our PCP, and to socially distance ourselves, so we do not contribute to the spread of this pandemic.
By the same token we in Sabine are experiencing the spread of underage drinking and misuse of substances that lead to very serious consequences for our children, youth and families. Short-term effects of alcohol use and misuse include symptoms such as such as dizziness, mood swings, violent behavior, lack of coordination, impaired motor skills, impaired judgment, nausea/vomiting. Damage to short term memory can lead to more long term problems such as sexual violence, accidents, injury to self and others, poor academic achievement and disruption of family relationships. Even longer-term effects and consequences include alcohol dependence and addiction, depression, increased risk of cancer, disruption of normal brain development. Social problems include trouble getting along with parents, teachers, authority figures and peers, problems getting and keeping a job. In the worst case scenario, liver damage from alcohol abuse and addiction can lead to death.
The Sabine Prevention Alliance (SPA) will be one year old next month in April. Our mission is to help keep children and youth safe, sober and successful by increasing awareness of the prevalence of underage drinking, its negative consequences and what communities working together can do to prevent and reduce underage drinking as well as with other high-risk behaviors. Much like the COVID-19 pandemic we are using a public health, environmental strategy approach only with one difference. We do not want to use social distancing with our children and youth. Parents, teachers, community leaders, law enforcement, health care agencies, business and Faith-Based organizations need to pull our kids close, show them love, positive role modeling, non-judgmental attitudes, effective supervision and positive alternatives to destructive decisions. Offer them opportunities to participate, learn skills, be leaders and help their friends as well as those less fortunate. Families, churches, schools and community organizations all can play a vital role in encircling rather than distancing from our children and youth.
The big ask for March is to get involved in your family, a church, your kid’s school, in community events and in coalitions within the Parish that are working toward healthy community norms and expectations. Some say that the youth are our future leaders. I’m thinking they are today’s leaders and it is up to us in what direction they will lead.
For more information on how you can get involved go to Facebook / Sabine Prevention Alliance, www.sabineprevents.com, email SPAWagley@gmail.com or come by 259 Fisher Rd. for a visit to learn more about SPA and ask your clergy if they are or want to be involved in the Faith-Partners project.
Citizens, churches, organizations, businesses and agencies who want to start a conversation about how we as a Parish will prevent and reduce underage drinking are welcome to give voice to their suggestions, concerns and positive alternatives.