Drug use prevention and education has been identified by surveys conducted by Lycoming College for Lycoming County United Way as a top priority in our communities.
In response to this identified need, LCUW has partnered with Valley Prevention Services to address the need.
"VPS is a private nonprofit organization that provides alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse prevention and education services in Lycoming County. During its 20 year history, VPS has literally worked in and with every school district in Lycoming County, as well as with many other local community based organizations," explained Geoffrey Arthur, executive director of VPS.
"In a 2009 survey conducted with more than 2,000 Lycoming County youth, the youth shared that the age of first use of cigarettes is between 12 and 13, first use of alcohol is between 13 and 14 and first use of marijuana is 14 and 15.," he added. "The survey was conducted with youth from throughout the county and was not specific to one community."
In response to these survey findings, VPS targeted more and more of its services to those of elementary school age the critical age before first use.
According to Arthur, lessons provided by the agency combine both increased knowledge of the consequences and effects of alcohol and other drug use and skill development.
"Referred to as 'refusal skills,' skill development teaches and practices with the youth the skills they need to use to refuse alcohol, tobacco and other drugs," Arthur said. "During the lessons, youth are placed in scenarios with their classmates and offered to use, for example, alcohol. The youth then have a chance to practice the refusal skills so that they become familiar and comfortable with the use of the skills."
Each young person receives between six to 10 lessons, depending on the program.
Because of funding from LCUW, youth from Williamsport, Montgomery and Loyalsock are receiving prevention services this year.
Written responses from both the youth and their classroom teachers have been very positive.
One teacher wrote, "I really enjoyed the program and thought it was very useful for the children. They had many misunderstandings about drugs and alcohol. VPS's staff person interacted very well with the students as well!"
A fourth grader wrote, "At first when you came and we took the test, I didn't know anything about the refusal skills. But after you taught me the right answers, I told my parents and they are trying to quit smoking".
"The results from these prevention services are real and tangible and are made possible only because of the support from LCUW and its generous donors," concluded Arthur.
Through it annual fund distribution process as determined by community volunteers, LCUW allocated $20,000 to VPS this year.
"Preventing drug use makes much more sense than treating drug abuse or addiction later in life," added Scott N. Lowery, executive director of LCUW. "We are pleased to fund Valley Prevention Services and support the critical work they do. By increasing knowledge, coupled with reinforcing positive attitudes about non-use, then teaching skills to refuse alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, young people are better equipped to resist using these substances in the first place."
For more information on Valley Prevention Services visit www.valleypreventionservices.org.
For more information on Lycoming County United Way or to support the campaign that funds more than 40 human service programs like these, visit lcuw.org or call 323-9448. Lycoming County United Way also is now on Facebook.