December 4, 2017

Local substance misuse coalition offers resources to families

Huggins Hospital, Carroll County Coalition for Public Health and Team Wolfeboro have developed a local coalition, Eastern Lakes Region Coalition for Healthy Families, dedicated to supporting families and our communities through the issue of substance misuse.

The Monday before Thanksgiving, the coalition hosted a forum for families at the Kingswood Arts Center in Wolfeboro. The event, called Straight Talk: A Call to Action, included a panel of local experts hoping to provide the information families need to address the problem of substance misuse. Resources from the event are available on the Coalition’s webpage at www.hugginshospital.org/support/ELRCHF.

Huggins Hospital’s Senior Philanthropy and Community Health Officer, Susan Houghton, Ph.D., opened and facilitated the evening. “We’re here to launch a coalition for our youth and our families,” said Dr. Houghton. “I hear people say that the time to act is now and the place to act is here. We’re aiming to have a few of these forums to give our local families the tools they need for prevention and education as well as the resources they need to understand what is available for treatment and recovery.”

The evening began with a framing of the problem from Wolfeboro Police Chief Dean Rondeau who believes the most important step is to prevent substance issues before they occur. Chief Rondeau said we should start with making sure children know the downfalls of drug use. “They need to hear that message over and over again and they shouldn’t just hear it from me,” said Chief Rondeau. “They should also hear it from adults they know and trust.”

Supporting Chief Rondeau’s point, Bob Batson of Team Wolfeboro discussed the supportive involvement of the faith communities. “We really feel that the community has to work together,” said Batson. “It is not just a law enforcement or education problem; it is a community problem.” 

The audience also heard from Tuftonboro Central School Counselor Matt Tetreault who explained the collaborative and proactive approach the school uses to help students learn about stress and how he helps them learn tools to adapt to that stress. “Trauma is in the eye of the beholder,” said Tetreault. “If a situation has exceeded that child’s ability to cope, it is traumatic to them whether or not we think it is traumatic. We are finding that these traumatic experiences increase the probability of substance misuse in the future.”

Associate Director of the Kingswood Youth Center Zach Porter discussed a few of the programs the Center offers that also help children cope with stress and learn more about substance misuse including a prevention program with the help of White Horse Addiction Center of Center Ossipee. Children from Kingswood Youth Center presented to the crowd during the event, discussing why they participate in the programs. They said they go to make new friends and feel comfortable being themselves. Strong friendships and identity are proven protective factors that help youth build resilience and make healthy choices.   

After an energetic round of applause for the children, Carroll County Coalition for Public Health’s Prevention Resources Coordinator Jennifer Selfridge spoke about what prevention means and how it can be many different things including the Kingwood Youth Center, the recreation departments, everyday interactions and more. “We’re very lucky in the Wolfeboro and Carroll County area because we have intelligent and passionate people who are coming together to support the community,” said Selfridge.

Dr. Houghton agreed with Selfridge and discussed how Huggins Hospital plans to continue to support families. “At Huggins, the focus in on the whole person and the standard of care is non-judgmental,” said Dr. Houghton. “The goal is to eliminate bias because those who feel bias do not continue to search out care. It all starts with screening and then primary care providers can help patients set goals for continued health.”

Closing the panel discussions, White Horse Addiction Center’s licensed clinical social worker and master licensed alcohol and drug counselor Melissa Fernald provided techniques and offered advice for children, parents and community members. “Communication is key,” said Fernald. She urged children to talk with their parents as opposed to their peers for accurate information and urged parents to truly listen. Fernald also recommended that parents talk to each other about substance misuse and to speak to their pediatrician about their children’s behavior.

The evening wrapped up with questions from the audience. The audience and the members of the speaking panel thanked the coalition for the event. For more information about the Eastern Lakes Region Coalition for Healthy Families and to find resources from the event, please call Huggins Hospital’s Senior Philanthropy and Community Health Officer Susan Houghton, Ph.D. at 603-569-7560 or visit the coalition’s webpage at www.hugginshospital.org/support/ELRCHF.