Working to keep Natick youth safe and healthy.
To promote a safe, healthy, and drug free community through the collaboration of public and private groups, organizations and individuals, using proven strategies to reduce risk factors and increase resiliency among Natick youth.
Natick’s original community substance abuse coalition, Natick Alcohol and Drug Advisory Council (NADAC) was created in 1985 in response to Massachusetts Governor Dukakis’ “Governor’s Alliance Against Drugs” initiative and his request of School Superintendents to address drug and alcohol abuse among youth at the local level. During the early years, the coalition was primarily comprised of school personnel and parents. NADAC goals were to: (1) Increase the level of community awareness about the problems of alcohol and other drug use and abuse, especially among youth (2) Educate citizens of Natick about the problems associated with youth alcohol and other drug use; and (3) Provide positive alternatives to alcohol and other drug use for youth.
Over time, interest in the Coalition grew and NADAC membership resembled the current Drug Free Communities 12 Sector model; sub-committees included Community Education, Community Support Groups, and Community/Court Programs. Early accomplishments were: (1) the establishment of a Court Diversion program in collaboration with the Natick Police and Courts; (2) sponsorship of a town-wide “Safe, Sane and Sober” weekend; and (3) creation of informational pamphlets about youth substance abuse and community education programming. The Coalition hosted the first After-Prom Party, which is now in its 18th year. When waning interest and membership became a problem in part due to a lack of leadership and in part due to burn out, the group changed its name in 2004 to Natick Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (NASAP) in the hopes of attracting new members. Outreach efforts were unsuccessful in growing and strengthening the coalition because time for recruitment efforts was limited and there was a lack of leadership.
In 2005, the MetroWest Community Health Care Foundation (MWHCF) conducted a regional study of the 25 cities and towns it serves in the Boston MetroWest suburbs and identified youth substance abuse as one of the top three health challenges in the region. The Foundation made funding opportunities available to hire a Coordinator of Youth Substance Abuse (YSAI) and in 2007, The Town of Natick applied for and received funding from MWHCF. During the first six months, the YSAI Coordinator met with key stakeholders in order to learn about the community and re-engage community interest in youth substance abuse prevention initiatives. Multiple approaches to engage community members in youth substance abuse prevention resulted in positive outcomes as measured by attendance at events and the quality of contacts with the YSAI Coordinator. NASAP coalition members were able to focus their strengths and interests on engaging community members at different levels. Town Hall Meetings and the Prescription Drug Return Day engaged many Town Departments and provided examples of the benefits of working collaboratively. Successful activities included: (1) Community Education: Town Hall Meetings at which data from the 2008 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey (MWAHS) was shared, a social marketing campaign created with other area communities, newspaper articles, monthly newsletters; (2) Outreach to Schools: data presentation to school personnel; intervention for youth involved with substance use at school, school policy (3) Parent Education and Support: parent education programming, parent surveys, a monthly parent support group in collaboration with the Town Social Worker, parent coffees; and (4) Prevention Initiative: Prescription Drug Return Day, April 2010.
In 2009, a group called Natick Together was formed by the Director of the Council on Aging, Human Services to participate in a one year, Healthy Communities Initiative. This group included town, school, community, and business representatives, as well as the YSAI Coordinator. In order to identify areas of health focus for the group, they reviewed data from the 2002 Health and Related Services Needs Assessment Project by John Snow, Inc., the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Metro West Adolescent Health Care Surveys, and the 2005 MetroWest Health Data Book and Atlas. Three broad areas of focus were identified to target: (1) Health and Fitness under which Youth Substance Abuse was included; (2) the Environment; and (3) Diversity. In the spring of 2010, after several discussions and joint meetings, NASAP elected to merge its group and become a sub-group of Natick Together, the current youth substance abuse coalition, Natick Together2. Several of the original NADAC/NASAP members are continuing to serve because of their commitment to preventing youth drug and alcohol abuse. This newly merged coalition has been using the Strategic Prevention Frameworks model and created an Action Plan. The NT2 Coalition is ready and well positioned with ample support and involvement from the community to implement the Action Plan using Environmental Strategies that have been proven to reduce youth substance abuse.
In 2012, the NT2 coalition revisited it's name, solicited suggestions for new names a