The Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities began to plan for its next two years of work at Monday’s general meeting.
The coalition received the results from this year’s Illinois Youth Survey, which, once reviewed and compiled, led to some drastic finds.
Sgt. Anica Jankowski, who has been helping the coalition address its vision and problem statement, led the discussion on how to come up with a set problem statement that will help the group focus its mission.
Members of the coalition were asked to look over the many pages of data gathered from the survey that encompassed county sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th graders.
“We need to pick data points instead of generalities because we need to know that we’re making a difference,” Jankowski said. “We have to be able to go back and track the data points to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
Columbia alderman Mary Ellen Niemietz noted that after sixth grade, youth drug prevention leadership group participation goes from 22 percent down to 2 percent in eighth grade, 1 percent in 10th grade and 3 percent in 12th grade.
“There really are no prevention activities in high school and once they’re done with D.A.R.E.,” Niemietz said. “We’re really kind of dropping the ball after sixth grade.”
Coalition member Pat Row pointed out that combining the statistics for 10th and 12th grades on alcohol use shows that 61.2 percent of high school students have used alcohol in the past year.
One of the coalition’s founders, Bill Rebholz, pointed out that 12 percent of high school seniors reported binge drinking in the past two weeks.
The three things the group decided to address at the next meeting include age of first use of alcohol, perception or “coolness” factor of marijuana use, and drug prevention programs after D.A.R.E.
The reported average age of first use for more than a sip or two of alcohol was 14.7 years old and 15.2 years old for marijuana.
Perceived peer disapproval of use for smoking marijuana for sixth grade was 89 percent, but dropped to 27 percent by 12th grade, which coalition members found alarming.
The coalition members agreed they wanted to affect the statistics at a younger age and be proactive instead of reactive.
“Your interventions may not address a specific age in your problem statement, but that’s intentional. The community is involved in raising all the youth, but we don’t just focus on the target audience,” Jankowski said. “We want to help the whole community. We’re going to have to wait five years to see the impact.”
The coalition will meet again next week in a follow-up meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, at the YMCA to fully compile a problem statement based on those three concepts.