NORTH SHORE COALITION AGAINST SUBSTANCE ABUSE REACHING OUT TO ALL SEGMENTS OF THE COMMUNITY TO GET INVOLVED
March 24, 2017 --The North Shore Coalition Against Substance Abuse (CASA), an organization that is forming locally with a mission to change the culture and environment that contribute to alcohol and drug abuse, and which represents a collective response to several alcohol and opioid related tragedies involving young people in the North Shore area in recent years, is reaching out to all segments of the community to get involved.
Glen Head resident and North Shore school board Trustee Joanna Commander has been one of the principal promoters of North Shore CASA and currently serves as co-Chair of the group’s organizing committee along with Marty Glennon of Sea Cliff.
“There is a problem here that needs to be addressed," she said to Northwordnews. "There have been too many tragedies in this community."
Although school district leaders, such as Ms. Commander and Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick, have played an important role in initiating the group’s formation, Ms. Commander explained that the organization is not an arm of the school district.
“It’s especially important for this to be a community effort,” Ms. Commander said. “This is a community responsibility - not a school responsibility alone. These efforts are far more effective when the right message is coming from many sources - not just a single one.”
Dr. Melnick had expressed similar sentiments at a Board of Education meeting in early November at which he proposed forming such a group, after providing statistics showing high rates of alcohol and marijuana use among North Shore students in grades 7-12.
The data, based on a 2015 PRIDE survey indicated, among other striking numbers, that 45% of seniors reported "binge drinking" at least once in the past two weeks, and nearly 30% of juniors had used marijuana during the previous month.
Five years ago, the Superintendent explained, the school district started the Coalition for a Drug Free North Shore.
“The problem was that it was a school based organization,” he said, and that although the initial meetings were well attended, “after about a year, it boiled down to about four or five people willing to do the work.”
While there is a critical role for the District’s schools to play, which the Superintendent outlined at the November meeting, the effort needs to extend to the whole community, he explained.
“It doesn’t work as a school based model - it really has to be representative of the community fully,” he said. “And it would be this organization [North Shore CASA] that would spearhead the effort to change the culture within our community.”
The various segments of the community North Shore CASA seeks to involve include businesses, media, schools, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement agencies, religious organizations, civic and volunteer organizations, healthcare and substance abuse treatment professionals, youth, and local government agencies with expertise in the field of substance abuse.
Once an Executive Board is formed, with recommendations for those positions to be put forward at their next meeting on April 26, the not-for-profit organization will then begin its search for a salaried Director. Government grant monies, as well as donations will fund the group.
Ultimately, North Shore CASA will offer education for parents and youth, and promote environmental prevention strategies to change community conditions that contribute to alcohol and drug abuse by young people.
North Shore CASA is modeled on a similar organization that was started in Manhasset in 2001.
The effort in that community, Ms. Commander explained, seems to have paid dividends, with both anecdotal evidence and data based on student surveys suggesting that binge drinking among young people has declined significantly.
The April 26 meeting will take place at the high school library at 7 pm. All interested members of the community are invited to attend.
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