The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” tends to ring in the ears of many that have concerns about the youth of today. So many people in Craig seem to literally fight with all their gusto to try and assist the ones who need help.
At the Craig County School Board meeting, on Tuesday, December 6, this theme continued to sound not only in the ears of all who attended the meeting, but in the hearts of them as well. “We want to provide as many avenues as possible to keep our kids from going down the wrong path!” was the echo heard as JD Carlin, Prevention Specialist of Prevention Services from Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, gave his presentation. He is also a member of the Craig Prevention Planning Team (CPPT).
For the last several years, Craig County has participated in this survey. “The first survey was in 2003, then in 2005, 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2015,” Carlin shared. “It is expensive to do this; however, the team finds avenues of finances that costs the school district zero dollars.” The actual cost is about $25-$30 per student but the Craig County Prevention Team figures out how to get it done and take care of the finances. They have multiple funding sources: Craig Co. Rural Health Corp., PFS Grant (Partnerships for Success) via Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition and Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare.
The data analysis and reporting is conducted by Dr. Redican (Va. Tech) and Dr. Sallee (Radford University). The CPPT has multiple agency representation also: CCPS, DOH, DSS, BRBH, RAYSAC, Juvenile Court Services, Craig County Sheriff’s Office, Community Leaders, 4-H Extension Agent, New Castle Record and parents.
“The teachers, staff and administrative have seen the importance of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS),” Carlin said. It was approved by the CCPS Board at Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m really thrilled that this school board and administration believe that this is important and said that they want to do everything they can to give them all they need to work with,” Carlin added.
All middle school and high school students are given the opportunity to take this survey. Some choose to opt out, but the survey is completely confidential. They are not to put their names on it and can answer only certain questions.
The first page of the survey explains to the students the purpose of its use: “This survey is about health behavior. It has been developed so you can tell us what you do that may affect your health. The information you give will be used to develop better health education for young people like yourself.”
Topics asked on the survey include the concerning questions that are most prevalent to the students such as tobacco and other drugs, suicide, sexual behaviors (except for 6th grade), mental health, personal safety and other social behaviors.
Other topics include; 3-day use, perception of harm, perception of parental disapproval and perception of friend disapproval. These are core measures that are tracked by Federal Government and are required to be asked.
Below are some sample questions asked:
1- During the past 30 days, on how often did you smoke cigarettes?
2- How much do you think people risk harming themselves (physically or in other ways) if they smoke marijuana once or twice a week?
3- How wrong do your parents feel it would be for you to have one of more drinks of an alcoholic beverage nearly every day?
The date taken is used to identify community needs and areas of concern as well as success. Also, it helps to support grant applications. “The important things that we can see, like from the surveys taken last year were the percentage of students contemplating suicide and potentially contemplating suicide,” Carlin shared. “There was much data that we were able to get from it that assisted us in obtaining a grant that allowed for the education of faculty of staff in the middle and high schools with a program called, ‘Mental Health First Aid’.”
Through this program, each teacher and staff member had the opportunity to be trained in a full eight-hour day of in-depth information on how to look for signs of need in the student body.
“Now, hopefully they will be able to identify kids who may have serious needs or have some things going on that can be detected early,” Carlin said. “If more people are on the lookout and able to be attentive to the signs, then there will be a higher chance of getting the students connected to services more quickly.”
The classes provide the teachers with important information which allows the veil to be seen more clearly by them. Carlin added that with all the teachers and faculty better trained, they are more qualified to help each student at Craig schools.
“They are now more knowledgeable and have a greater understanding of seeing or hearing signs. “He just did something or said something that is a trigger for something possibly going on in the child’s life,” Carlin said. “That check could be the difference if detected, that could be a big fork in the road for a kid, turning it from tragedy to a healthy and safe avenue of help.” These training programs are like preventative maintenance. “You don’t wait until the tire blows to replace it… you keep a watchful eye on it’s tread and change it before a disaster happens,” Carlin added.
The CCPT would like to thank the CCPS Board for the opportunity to present the request and the administration for the continued support of CPPT initiatives including the YRBS. “The team has so many great ideas and suggestions and we work together very well to make sure all the information is accurate,” Carlin shared.
“I care greatly and this is all part of my paid employment,” Carlin said. “So many other people in Craig County volunteer their time that live in this community to do everything possible to assure their students in Craig have every opportunity to get help.”
Pam Dudding-Burch Contributing writer