Substance Use and Prevention

The abuse of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs has reached epidemic proportions. Addressing this crisis is a priority of the Greater Lowell Health Alliance and its Substance Abuse and Prevention Task Force.


Please join us in the fight.

Who We Are

 

Drug-Addiction-in-America-570x379The Substance Use and Prevention Task Force works to strengthen collaboration in the Greater Lowell community to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youth and adults. The Task Force has grown to include representatives from over 30 local health and human service agencies, as well as youth, parents, law enforcement officials, and elected officials.

Task Force Chairs
Maria Ruggiero, Tewksbury Police Department
Michael Hall, Lowell Health Department
Maria Lucci, Lowell House Addiction and Treatment Center

Subcommittees

There are three dynamic subcommittees under the SUP umbrella:

Environmental Strategies Working Group (ESWG)
CHAIR: Sochenda Uch
Led by Lowell Community Health Center’s Teen BLOCK works to inform and educate youth, parents and members in the community about how substance abuse is affecting our neighborhoods. ESWG is a youth lead group that implements strategies to reduce and prevent substance use. Some activities include youth surveys, compliance checks, forums, events, workshops, campaigns and training. By doing this we hope to create policy change and reduce the percentage of substance abuse in our community.

Marijuana Subcommittee
CHAIR: Mark Kennard
The subcommittee focuses on legislation that was passed allowing for the medical use of marijuana, convening local leaders to discuss the concerns of enforcement and access, as well as the potential impact on youth. The goals of the subcommittee are:
• To be informed on the status of the statewide medical marijuana laws and implementation.
• To educate ourselves and the community on the issues and concerns.
• To offer assistance to cities and towns looking to develop zoning laws  ordinances and/or regulations.

Substance Abuse and Prevention Collaborative (SAPC)
CHAIR: Maria Ruggerio
Led by the Tewksbury Police Department, SAPC is part of a comprehensive
approach to substance misuse and abuse prevention in Massachusetts. This
Subcommittee focuses on increasing the capacity of communities working
to prevent and reduce underage drinking and other drug use among youth.
Collaborating with MOAPC this initiative focuses on the communities of
Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Lowell, Tewksbury, Westford and Wilmington.

 


Join Us

Wdrug-support-group-350e urge you to join us in the fight to address this substance abuse and addiction crisis. Attend one of our task force meetings or contact Michael HallMaria Ruggiero, or Maria Lucci to learn how you can get involved. The Substance Use and Prevention Task Force meets the first Tuesday of every other month from 9 – 11 a.m. on:

  • Tuesday, December 5, 2017

in the First Floor Conference Room, Saints Campus, Lowell General Hospital, 1 Hospital Drive, Lowell.


Addressing the Need

The abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costly to our nation, exacting more than $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care.  The untold cost of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction in Greater Lowell and throughout the United States comes in the form of broken families, destroyed careers, death due to negligence or accident, child abuse, and domestic violence.

Nationally

  • Today, more Americans are dying of drug overdose than traffic accidents, primarily from heroin and prescription pills.
  • The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 23.9 million American citizens over age 11 had used illicit drugs in the month preceding the survey.
  • Mental illness plays a huge role behind the scene of many addictions, with 2012 statistics reporting that 8.4 million Americans who abuse substances also suffer from at least one mental illness.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drugs are used by approximately 10 to 22 percent of drivers involved in crashes, often in combination with alcohol.
  • At least half of the individuals arrested for major crimes including homicide, theft, and assault were under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs around the time of their arrest.
  • At least two-thirds of patients in drug or alcohol abuse treatment centers say they were physically or sexually abused as children

Locally

The 2016 Greater Lowell Health Needs Assessment, a collaborative effort of the GLHA, Lowell General Hospital, and University of Massachusetts Lowell, has identified substance abuse and addiction – including opioids, alcohol and tobacco – as among the most serious unmet needs in Greater Lowell.

Public health data supports concerns that the Greater Lowell area, and the City of Lowell in particular, have higher rates of substance abuse-related hospital admissions and opioid-related overdose deaths.

For additional resources, visit our Resources page.


Our Impact

Since its inception, the Substance Use & Prevention (SUP) Task Force has worked to strengthen new and existing collaborations in the Greater Lowell community  to prevent and reduce the use of substances among our community members. With a focus on environmental strategies, the task force employs efforts on policy making, substance use intervention, and prevention education.

Impact: The SUP Task Force partnerships have led to engagement of over 2,500 residents annually, over 50 compliance checks conducted each quarter, and drug prevention education to over 2,000 students (grades 3-12) annually. Also, through data collected by the Environmental Strategies Working Group (ESWG), youth usage of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs have seen a steady decline over the past 4 years.

 

Current Initiatives

The Substance Use and Prevention (SUP) Task Force works to strengthen new
and existing collaborations in the Greater Lowell community to prevent and
reduce the use of substances among our community members. With a focus
on environmental strategies, the task force employs efforts on policy making,
substance use intervention, and prevention education.

Among our accomplishments over the past year, we:
•Hosted a September National Recovery Month and October National
Substance Abuse Prevention Month press conference with the
Chelmsford Health Department, Chelmsford Police Department, and
Tewksbury Police Department on September 18.
•Sponsored “Drug Take Backs” events by local police departments.
•Participated in multiple National Night Out events in August – an annual
community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships
to make our neighborhoods safer, better places to live.
•Supported the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’s
Partnership for Success grant program to prevent prescription drug
misuse and abuse among high school youth in Lowell.
•Worked with the Massachusetts Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative
(MOAPC), led by the City of Lowell and including the towns of Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Tewksbury, Westford, and Wilmington, to implement local policy, practice, systems, and environmental change to prevent the use/abuse of opioids.
•In collaboration with the Lowell Police Department, held quarterly
prescription medication and sharps take-back events.
•Began implementing Life Skills Prevention curricula, grades 3-9 in all 7
towns in the MOAPC cluster, including training staff and providing materials
for students.
•In collaboration with Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan,
facilitated opioid awareness events for seniors throughout our cluster.
•Facilitated ongoing training in evidenced-based community prevention
to MOAPC partners.

There are three dynamic subcommittees under the SUP umbrella:

Enviornmental Strategies Working Group (ESWG)
Chair: Sochenda Uch, Teen BLOCK
Led by Lowell Community Health Center’s Teen BLOCK, ESWG works to inform
and educate youth, parents, and members in the community about how
substance abuse is affecting our neighborhoods, implementing strategies
to reduce and prevent substance use, such as surveys, compliance checks,
events, and training.

Among our accomplishments over the past year:
•Peer Leaders held after-school workshops at the Stoklosa Middle School,
implementing the Life Skills curriculum, with topics from coping with anger
to resolving conflicts.
•ESWG and LCHC Teen BLOCK chapter members attended Kick Butts Day at
the State House.
•ESWG youth assisted the SAPC with Sticker Shock Campaign, using stickers
in liquor stores to warn the public of the consequences of procuring alcohol
for minors.

Marijuana Subcommittee
Chair: Mark Kennard, Bridgewell
This subcommittee convenes local leaders to discuss the concerns of enforcement
and access of marijuana, as well as the potential impact on youth. We seek to
educate ourselves and the community on the issues, offering resources to
communities seeking to develop zoning laws ordinances and regulations.

Among our accomplishments over the past year, we:
•Hosted “The Impacts of Marijuana: Strategies to Address Related
Health, Social, and Legal Issues” at Lowell General Hospital on October 5.
•Consulted with Routt County (CO) Undersheriff Ray Birch regarding the
effect of legalization of marijuana in Colorado and how Massachusetts
can learn from Colorado’s experience.
•Worked to develop a Marijuana Fact Sheet and Resource Guide.

Substance Abuse and Prevention Colaborative
Chair: Maria Ruggiero, Tewksbury Police Department
Led by the Tewksbury Police Department, SAPC focuses on increasing the
capacity of communities to prevent and reduce underage drinking and other
drug use among youth. Collaborating with MOAPC, we focus on the communities
of Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Lowell, Tewksbury, Westford and Wilmington.

Among our accomplishments over the past year, we:
•Completed a Logic Model for our efforts to prevent and reduce underage
drinking and use of other drugs within our teen population.
•Worked on the Sticker Shock Campaign — using stickers in liquor stores
to warn the public of the consequences of procuring alcohol for minors —
throughout Greater Lowell, with the help of LCHC Teen BLOCK youth and
community teen representatives.
•Began implementing Life Skills, an evidence-based curriculum that teaches
children and teenagers coping skills and social/emotional learning tools in schools.
•Created a database of youth mental health resources.
•Began working with the national campaign “Above the Influence”
(abovetheinfluence.com) in our schools.
•Provided “Mental Health For Youth Trainings” for first responders and
individuals working with youth to help them understand the complexity of
dual-diagnosis with mental health and substance abuse.

Past Initiatives

In 2015-2016, GLHA awarded 10 grants totaling $171,426 to support programs and services to address the increasing issues surrounding substance abuse in the Greater Lowell area, utilizing a $200,000 contract awarded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The goals of the grant are to:

  • Build the capacity of those who work with children and youth to deliver prevention services.
  • Address change in the social environment by promoting community norms and public policies that decrease substance use.
  • Reduce risk factors and increase protective factors among youth and families by providing substance abuse prevention, education, outreach programs and services.
  • Build local partnerships to implement strategies that change community conditions and increase the community’s capacity to sustain effective efforts.