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Letter: Survey on teen alcohol, drug use

Remember the question "Survey Says" from the 1970s television show "Family Feud," in which families competed to come up with the most popular answers to a wide variety of questions?

This month, Fairfield Cares Community Coalition, in partnership with Positive Directions, is eagerly awaiting the answer to its own "Survey Says?"-- an anonymous parent survey regarding attitudes and perceptions about underage drinking and youth substance use.

The survey should only take 10 minutes and can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NNQMXZZ. The link will be open until March 14th and is limited to two per household.

Who is Fairfield Cares Community Coalition? What do we care about? Why does the survey matter?

Fairfield Cares Community Coalition is Fairfield's official local prevention ctuncil. Our membership is a cross-section of our community, including school administrators, clergy, law enforcement, members of the town library, health, recreation and human services departments, Fairfield Counseling Services, our Regional Action Council (RYASAP), Fairfield and Sacred Heart universities, PTA representatives from private and public schools and community volunteers.

Fairfield Cares joined forces with Positive Directions under a state grant to implement programs to reduce underage drinking and other substance use in Fairfield. Additional grant funding helps support these efforts and also provide suicide prevention training.

With the support of RYASAP and Positive Directions, we have collated and analyzed data from parent and student surveys to prioritize our actions. One result was a social norms print campaign in the middle and high schools to spread the word that the majority of Fairfield students do NOT drink or smoke marijuana! Another was mailing pre-prom postcards to parents of juniors and seniors explaining the legal consequences of serving alcohol to minors in Connecticut.

Partnerships with other member organizations have allowed us to leverage our resources. Fairfield University sponsored a town-hall-type meeting with Olympic trainer John Underwood, who discussed how healthy choices allow athletes and students to perform at peak levels. Fairfield Counseling Services initiated a Parent Connect program for parents to meet informally with a licensed clinician and other parents to discuss age-specific concerns for their children. RYASAP has provided suicide prevention training as well as mental health first aid to coalition members, along with regular technical support and guidance.

Fairfield Cares relies on data to drive decisions. The survey we are asking parents to complete now, followed by a student survey RYASAP will administer later this spring, will provide crucial information. Please take 10 minutes to complete our survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NNQMXZZ. That way we at Fairfield Cares will have solid results to answer our question, "Survey Says?"

For more information about the survey or the work of Fairfield Cares, please contact Fairfield Cares Co-Chairs Wendy Bentivenga at wbellbenti@yahoo.com or Cristin McCarthy Vahey at cmccarthyvahey@town.fairfield.ct.us.

Wendy Bentivenga

Cristin McCarthy Vahey

Co-chairs, Fairfield Cares

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