In February members of the Franklin County Caring Communities prevention coalition visited Washington, DC as attendees at the CADCA (Community Anti Drug Coalitions of America) 28th Annual Leadership Forum. The team included Caring Communities Youth & Family Outreach Coordinator Crystal Lampman, Alyssa Henry of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission, Teegan Deuso and Kyra Weatherwax of Enosburg Falls High School, and Jeffrey Moreau Director of Development from Northwestern Medical Center.

Coalition partners took part in four days of workshops ranging from ‘Drive High, Get a DUI: Addressing the Growing Threat of Drug-Impaired Driving’ to ‘Collaboration Across Communities’, as well as listening to engaging speakers such as Richard Baum, acting director of National Drug Control Policy, and Dr. Bertha Madras, professor of Psychobiology at Harvard Medical School. Caring Communities joined forces with other coalitions from across Vermont to speak with our Congressional delegates about the important work coalitions do.

Crystal spoke to staff members of Senator Bernie Sanders of the mixed messages our government sends in the legalization of cannabis. Teegan described to Congressman Peter Welch the issues staff are now seeing in Vermont schools stemming from children born to mothers battling opiate addiction during pregnancy. “Franklin County has the highest rate of children in DCF custody in the state. Children born to opiate-addicted mothers face an uphill battle. We are seeing learning disabilities and increased behavior issues, these often require additional staff and increased training.”

Youth from the Healthy Lamoille Valley Coalition described increases in tobacco use within their schools, “You can buy JUUL’s and e-liquid online, you just need a pre-paid Visa card and a physical address to send it to. There is very little regulation” said one middle school student.

Not all was negative, however, “You give me hope” Senator Patrick Leahy responded as EFHS sophomore Kyra Weatherwax described Franklin County Teen Institute, our youth empowerment program that brings together students from across the county to give them the skills and confidence they need to promote wellness and a substance-free lifestyle amongst their peers. With encouragement and education, teens can lead by example, positively influencing other students’ behavior and encourage healthy decisions when it comes to drinking and drug use.