Commentary: 10 years of drug and alcohol prevention

Kelly Leppard,
Town of Southington youth prevention coordinator
and STEPS liason
Tel: (860) 276-6281
Email: SouthingtonSTEPS@gmail.com.

The Southington STEPS Coalition was incredibly honored to celebrate 10 years of making prevention a priority with over 250 community members at the Aqua Turf Club. It was also an opportunity to honor one of STEPS founding members and forever friend, John Myers, as he retires at the end of this year.

Myers was the first president of STEPS and served six consecutive years in that role. His passion and dedication for helping youth in Southington is one of a kind, and he will forever be a legend to STEPS and to the Town of Southington for creating our strong foundation to make youth and prevention a priority here in Southington for many years to come.

Here is a brief timeline of our biggest accomplishments from the past 10 years:

In 2008, the coalition was officially formed, the youth prevention coordinator position was added to the Town of Southington’s Youth Services Department , the first forum was held with 300-plus community leaders, the concept of the STEPS Coalition developed, the 40 Developmental Asset Model adopted by Southington community, and the advisory Board structure was created to represent all sectors of the community: law enforcement, parents, students, educators, town government, healthcare, media, faith community, business, reducing substances, civic, military, and youth serving organizations.

In 2009, the first Search Institute student survey was administered to grades 7, 9, and 11. STEPS received the highly competitive Federal Drug Free Communities grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy ($125,000 per year for five years to reduce youth substance abuse).

In 2010, the STEPS Youth Council was formed. A new logo branded. STEPS organized the town’s first Drug Take Back Day. STEPS began merchant education and STEPS-funded alcohol compliance checks for bars, restaurants and package stores.

In 2011, selling the drug, K2, was banned in town. The second student survey was administered. The Asset Building Classrooms initiative was created. STEPS launched its website.

In 2012, the medication drop box was installed in the Southington Police Department lobby with over 6,000 pounds of prescription medications collected to date. The second community forum was held. The coalition was branded with tagline “I’m In.” STEPS held its first 5th grade asset transition day. STEPS partnered with the Planning and Zoning Commission to change regulations for marijuana growing facilities.

In 2013, the third student survey was administered. STEPS presented at state-wide conferences. The Southington Serves volunteer website was launched. STEPS conversation cards were released. The first TIPS Training for bars and restaurants was held.

In 2014, two town ordinances passed regarding the placement of tobacco delivery product and prevention language on alcohol signage. An educational forum was held with the Connecticut Liquor Control. STEPS launched its 84 Campaign: “84, it’s not what you think, 84% don’t drink. Be part of the majority!”

In 2015, STEPS received the second cycle of Drug Free Communities funding. STEPS administered the fourth student survey. The coalition launched the popular ‘Lock It or Drop It’ Campaign and the ‘Be In The Know’ parent information series.

In 2016, the town held the first 8th grade transition day. STEPS presented at a national conference. The town held the first ‘Good Deeds Week.’ A local overdose prevention questionnaire was created with the Southington Police Department.

In 2017, the fifth student survey was administered. STEPS held professional development for educators within the district. An online parent education video series was created. The popular Wheel of Unfortunate Substances was introduced to middle and high school students. STEPS was named as the Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals Coalition of the Year.

In 2018, Asset Building Classrooms hosted state-wide training. The STEPS liquor stickers were invented (visit us at the Apple Harvest). No vaping signage was introduced at Southington parks. Vaping intervention initiatives were created at SHS. STEPS received two State Targeted Response grants to address the opioid epidemic. STEPS hosted the town’s first naloxone training and launched the ‘What are you saving your medications for’ campaign.

Today, STEPS is considered one of the leading prevention coalitions in the state, with 30 dedicated members on the STEPS Advisory Board and 35 students on the STEPS Youth Council.

We are proud of our accomplishments but we know that there is still much more work to be done. Please join our efforts to educate, reduce access, and change policies regarding alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and prescription drugs in the Southington community.

To learn more about STEPS or to get involved, please visit our website: www.SouthingtonSTEPS.org

Kelly Leppard is the youth prevention coordinator for the Town of Southington and the STEPS liason. She can be reached at (860) 276-6281or SouthingtonSTEPS@gmail.com.

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