Marquette County a Community that Cares

by Scott Ham

What is the measure of a community? The old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” offers us a useful perspective for considering this question. It suggests that the function of a community is, to no small extent, the protection of the interests of its most vulnerable members.

Or, looking at the issue from another angle, the degree to which a community succeeds in this endeavor is a prime indicator of its stability. Certainly, history bears out the notion that a society that ignores the well-being of its children is bound to reap the consequences as these children grow up and assume the mantel of leadership.

There is a common lament heard in the company of those who are old enough to remember a time when the previously mentioned adage was not yet a platitude, but rather a commonly accepted way of life. I have heard it myself again and again; in a time when advances in technology and changes in social mores present children with a dizzying array of life choices, for good or ill, our society has not kept pace in placing safeguards against the folly of youth.

The results are potentially catastrophic: addiction, violence and criminality are only a few poor choices away, and it seems that fewer and fewer eyes are on our children to help prevent these outcomes.

These are issues that the Marquette County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (MC2), a multi-agency collaborative body composed of both concerned professionals and community members and funded through the Northcare Network, has worked with for the past 25 years.

Education and community awareness activities such as safe prom and homecoming programs, “mocktail” (non-alcoholic mixed drinks) events at local businesses, parenting education programs and school-based curriculum delivery are only a few of the many interventions we have utilized in the past. While we have seen success from prevention efforts not only in our own community, but nationwide—drastically lowered rates of youth tobacco use is one notable achievement—we are continually seeking new and effective methods for helping our youth to thrive.

In this spirit, MC2 has adopted a community intervention model that seeks to protect our community’s children not only by reducing the risk factors that pose a threat to their well-being, but by cultivating the protective factors that enable them to make positive choices. The Communities That Care (CTC) model is an evidenced-based intervention model that seeks to engage all sectors and levels of a community around a common goal: the benefit of that community’s youth.

The Center for Communities That Care is a nation-wide program that operates out of the University of Washington. Any and all communities are able to adopt the center’s model for community intervention and to access the resources and training offered by the center to facilitate the intervention process.

Evidence-based programming, such as Botvin’s Lifeskills, an anti-drug and violence curriculum that has proven to reduce rates of dangerous behavior in youth by encouraging skills such as assertiveness and media awareness, are recommended for implementation based on a community’s specific needs. The needs to be addressed in a given community are based on information collected through a school-based survey measuring prevalent risk and protective factors.

MC2 is currently involved in the first phase of the CTC process, which involves expanding our base of support by recruiting key leaders—community members with positions of influence such as judges and business owners—as well as seeking out other community members who would like to participate in the nuts and bolts of the coalition’s operations.

The next step is to conduct a school-based survey to determine which issues need to be addressed in our county, after which evidence-based interventions will be chosen and implemented.

That doesn’t mean we have taken a break from our ongoing efforts, however. Currently MC2 is holding a video contest open to all middle, high-school and NMU students in the county, and we are planning the first of a series of forums on opiate abuse (for information on either of these events, contact the author at sham@mqtco.org).

MC2 is not the only U.P. coalition to take advantage of the CTC model – Communities That Care coalitions are currently active in Luce, Alger and Houghton counties, and several more counties are in the process of forming their own CTCs.

While interventions will no doubt differ from county to county, based on each county’s unique needs and dynamics, this standardized approach to youth issues across the U.P. will help the communities involved become more connected to one another and broaden our ability to address the issues that we have in common. It is an exciting time to be a part of our community, and an excellent time to prove that we do, indeed, care.

Visit www.communitiesthatcare.net for more information about Communities That Care.

Visit at www.facebook.com/mqtco2 to find out more information about MC2.

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