At a recent selectboard meeting, statements were made implying that our organization was “forcing morality or imposing on rights of businesses” (by requesting a permit be denied during a substance-free event, paid for with prevention funding). We are writing this letter to educate the community on the mission of the Deerfield Valley Community Partnership and why we felt it necessary to oppose this specific permit.
If we can prevent youth from using any substances before the age of 21, we know that they will likely not have to deal with any personal addiction issues in their lives-that is our goal. Keeping kids drug/alcohol free is not a morality issue. It is a public health issue. Shouldn’t the goal of our community be to promote public health, safety and well-being?
We want to be clear that DVCP has no problem with adults of legal age drinking in a responsible manner. As stated at the selectboard meeting, we have no opposition to any alcohol permit for an adult event. In addition, we in no way infer that minors are being served by local businesses.
When the DVCP started 20 years ago, we were a community where the use of drugs and alcohol by our youth was very high, above state levels, and increasing every year. Community members came together to form a coalition to address this issue.
The focus of this group was to identify the risk factors in our community-what things were happening in our community that contributed to such high youth use of substances? Youth are influenced by a complex set of factors, such as community norm, media messages, and availability/easy access to substances.
Most importantly, their perception of harm and perception of use are risk factors. If youth think a substance is harmless and “everyone is using it” they are more likely to try it. Living in a resort area, our youth tend to be exposed to an environment where alcohol is everywhere, even at family-targeted events.
Alcohol is included in most events and activities unless it is a school-based activity. Our teens are also exposed to tobacco and marijuana during recreational activities and where they work. This is what is normal in their community- it is what they know.
Our goal is to change this “community norm” and advocate for a community environment where this type of exposure is limited.
Some examples of our comprehensive program to reach this goal includes: working to make parks smoke free; implementing alcohol free family events; encouraging less tobacco and alcohol advertising; working with schools on policies and prevention education for their students; conducting retailer trainings; and educating the public on safe disposal of unused prescription medications.
All of these strategies address the factors in our community/environment that contribute to youth using tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
We would like to thank the Anchor Restaurant owner, Susan Lawrence for agreeing to not serve alcohol in any extended areas on August 2 during the Blueberry Block Party. As part of the Blueberry Festival, DVCP started this event six years ago, to promote substance free family and community fun. We have been pleased with the great turnout each year. The event has brought in over 800 people, which has benefited all of our downtown businesses. We appreciate the chamber and all of the businesses that have partnered with us on this event.
Recently, other sponsors of the block party decided that the event had become bigger than a family event and our sponsorship would not be solicited for the event in the future. We were disappointed by this decision, because we would advocate that any community event that includes children and families be substance-free.
We would encourage the selectboard to balance successful business and economic development with the goal of a healthy community, when making decisions. We would hope this would be a goal shared by local organizations, community members and local businesses as well.
DVCP staff and members: Cindy Hayford, Shelley Park, Andy Hauty, Stephanie Powers, Karen Molina, Arlene Palmiter, Dawn Borys, Dr. Peter Park, Rebecca Sweeney, Bob Edwards, Kristin Trudeau, Judith Fellows, Michelle Doucette, Carrie Blake, Susan Rogers, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Kim Hicks, Dennis Heberlein, Jennifer Nilsen, Emily Beeman, Dario Lussardi, and Lynn Redd