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Davis Journal

Group’s mission is to reduce risk factors for youth

Mar 25, 2021 03:00PM ● By Becky Ginos

BOUNTIFUL—There are many risk factors for adolescent problem behavior and a countywide initiative has been developed to help youth before that happens. Communities That Care is a coalition made up of city leaders, principals, parents, faith leaders, city council members, healthcare professionals and many more who work to find their community’s needs and create prevention programs.

“Davis Behavioral Health (DBH) is working in partnership with cities in Davis County on substance abuse prevention and mental health problems in general,” said Jess Bigler Prevention Specialist with DBH. “The neat part is they find out what the specific needs are for their kids and we’re able to tailor programs to those needs in those communities.”

The south Davis coalition is made up of Woods Cross, West Bountiful, North Salt Lake, Centerville and Bountiful. Layton has two coalitions in the Northridge and Layton High area and the northern coalition extends to Sunset.

“Our goal is to partner with all cities in Davis County,” said Bigler. “Through the partnership they can utilize the Communities That Care system. It’s got strong research backing that has been shown to be effective in diverse communities in the U.S. and worldwide.”

Bigler said doctors know how to prevent physical health problems. “We know the risk factors for those but also now we know the risk factors that lead to youth problem behavior such as substance abuse, violence, delinquency, teen pregnancy, depression and anxiety. We’re able to look at those risk factors that are elevated for kids in a community and select evidence-based programs to help reduce those risks.”

Youth themselves are part of a coalition too, she said. “They work alongside us. Anyone invested in our youth can join the coalition.”

Communities That Care offers programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters, said Bigler. “We have a one-on-one parenting class and an incredible years family class. Strengthening families is the foundation. Our goal is to get those to as many in the community as we can.”

Bigler said they also have a side project called the START reading program. “Families pick up 12 award winning books and join in with other families virtually for six weeks where local leaders read the books with the families and have an engaging discussion about the books.”

DBH also uses data from the SHARP survey given to students every other year in the sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades. “It shows teen pregnancy rates, juvenile arrest records and other indicators that tell the story of what’s putting our youth at risk,” she said. “They’re currently taking that right now so we’ll have new data this fall.”

Last month they started training community members, she said. “Once they’re trained they can start looking into local data and determining their priorities. Then they can assess what in their community addresses those risks and make an action plan to reduce those risks and build protection for youth.”

Now is a great time for community members to get on board, said Bigler. “There are lots of different roles that they can be involved in. I encourage people to go where they live. You can do a lot of good in your school and outside the school to support kids. It’s so neat to watch community members work together in preventing problems.”

Bigler said parents play a big role in preventing risk factors. “Research shows that parents are still the number one influence in their kids not drinking. I tell parents to hang in there, you’re still in the game. Stay involved in their life even if it seems like they don’t want you there. It’s very important to them to have you in their life.”