Photo: A poster of one of the several services provided by the Belmont Wellness Coalition.
Under the auspices of Wayside Youth & Family Support Network’s Multi-Service Center in Watertown, the Belmont Wellness Coalition (BWC) was awarded a five-year Drug Free Communities grant from the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Belmont is one of only 120 communities nationwide to receive an award this grant cycle. The Town of Belmont is eager to bolster its youth substance use prevention efforts and to work collaboratively with a cross-section of town departments as well as community and youth members.
“This funding is a recognition by the federal government, that Belmont, through the establishment of the Belmont Wellness Coalition, is poised to roll up its sleeves and continue the work of reducing youth substance use through collaborative community efforts,” said Lisa Gibalerio, prevention specialist at Wayside, a long-time Belmont resident, and parent of three teenagers.
The BWC meets about once a month and enthusiastically welcomes new members.
Belmont will rely on the coalition to mobilize partners from across the community with the ultimate goal of implementing town-wide prevention strategies that reduce youth use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. The focus of the first year is twofold; identifying the problem and capacity building.
This past year, the Coalition made a NARCAN training available for Belmont residents, provided a workshop at the Chenery Middle School on best practices for parenting teens, instituted a “Relaxation Station” at the high school during final exam week, and implemented a mini YRBS survey to 335 eighth graders in order to establish a baseline of data concerning substance use, perception of harm, and rates of parental disapproval.
The BWC hopes to develop an awareness campaign and to support parent education in order to shift the community norm away from the inevitability of underage substance use, i.e., that substance use is a “rite of passage” for youth.
The Belmont Wellness Coalition was founded in 2017 to support substance use prevention and education efforts. Its membership includes parents, youth, community leaders, clergy, local business representation, as well as school department and town employees, all of whom work collaboratively to support the Coalition’s mission: to use education and empowerment to reduce substance use and to promote healthy choices and positive decision-making.
For more information about the Drug Free Communities grant or the Belmont Wellness Coalition, please contact Lisa Gibalerio, MPH, prevention specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org.