Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick introduced the 2012 Upper Bucks Healthy Communities Healthy Youth Coalition Town Hall meeting Tuesday, May 22, held at Bucks County Community College, Upper Bucks campus.
High school students from Quakertown, Pennridge and Palisades school districts were in attendance, in addition to law enforcement officials, clergy, social workers and school board members.
The youth coalition is supported by a federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, which allows them to hire staff, complete a biannual youth survey and provide other social services in the Upper Bucks community.
“I gave a speech in the house about your drug take back program, which is a model for the nation and really a leader in the country,” Fitzpatrick said. “So I want to thank the coalition for giving me the opportunity to speak on the floor.”
Fitzpatrick also spoke about the Stop Oxy Abuse Act of 2011, a bill he cosponsored with Rep. Mary Mack, which would limit prescription of Oxycotin to use for the relief of severe-only pain instead of moderate-to-severe pain. Fitzpatrick said he hopes this will get more prescription drugs off the streets and out of the hands of youth.
Following Fitzpatrick’s introduction, UPHCHY’s community mobilizer, Lee Rush, presented the results of this year’s youth survey.
Eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students participate in the survey, so each year, two-thirds of the students who participated in the last survey participate again.
This year, 2,711 youths completed the survey. The questions focused on drug and alcohol usage and availability.
“The number of eighth-graders who said they’ve drank in the past 30 days is at the lowest it’s been since we began these surveys,” Rush said.
The percentage of eighth-graders who recently drank dropped from the last survey’s from 18 percent to 10 percent.
Rush added that he sees tremendous opportunity with the eighth-grade class to reduce the tendency to drink before the kids get to high school.
The survey also found that a majority of all youths do not regularly use alcohol, tobacco or marijuana — 71 percent, 88 percent and 84 percent, respectively.
After the results of the survey were presented, community members were able to participate in small group discussions with youths. The group discussions focused on the positive and negative outcomes of drinking.
Following the discussions, some of the highlights were presented. One group’s negative response focused on the guilt of disappointing your parents.
Pennridge School Board member Sue Furlong was also in attendance.
“Lee Rush comes to a lot of our meetings and this was an opportunity to see how he operates in our community,” Furlong said. “I think alcohol is one of the most destructive things that we allow in our society. I think it’s very important to convey to children the dangers of drinking.”
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