Expanding community substance abuse prevention
The Substance Prevention Alliance of Needham (SPAN) is comprised of residents, youth and key stakeholders that work to implement strategies for youth substance use prevention. Drawing on the strengths of a civic-minded and collaborative community, SPAN offers Needham residents education, support and resources for navigating substance use and misuse among our youth.
Originally named the Needham Coalition for Youth Substance Abuse Prevention (NCYSAP), the Substance Prevention Alliance of Needham (SPAN) as developed out of the Youth Education subcommittee of the Needham Suicide Prevention Coalition (NCSP) which was created in 2006 following a span of suicides in the community in 2004. Recognizing the value and importance of substance abuse prevention to community health as a whole, the Needham Public Health Department agreed to house the youth substance abuse prevention coalition efforts of SPAN and to provide administrative and logistical support for its efforts.
Upon receiving the Drug Free Communities grant award in 2009, the SPAN expanded prevention efforts based on the Strategic Prevention Framework; Coalition staff attended the CADCA National Academy and over three training weeks learned to interpret data and identify root causes of underage substance use inherent in Needham. Staff learned about capacity building, evaluation and the importance of incorporating cultural competency and sustainability approaches to strengthen and maintain the coalition. Staff passed this knowledge onto the alliance and, combined with outside facilitator training, coalition members became versed in public health prevention principles and models. Together, coalition members refined our community prevention efforts based on youth risk behavior survey data, school and police incident data, resident feedback from focus groups and key stakeholder interviews. Our education and advocacy work on policy change has resulted in approval and passage of regulations by the Board of Selectman, Board of Health, and Planning Board including tobacco regulations capping the number of licensees, a moratorium on marijuana home cultivation and dispensaries and an ordinance banning public consumption of marijuana, with ordinances passed by Town Meeting Member vote.
The coalition now consistently implements prevention strategies aimed at decreasing risk factors for youth substance use and increasing protective factors that promote community resilience.