Education and Training are Key to Prevention
Sheridan County Prevention is a government agency that acts as an umbrella for local efforts to address underage alcohol use, adult overconsumption, tobacco prevention, opioid misuse and abuse, and other drug prevention and suicide prevention. The agency held three public comment sessions this week to collect input for the creation of a comprehensive work plan for Sheridan County.
Statewide prevention efforts have developed in fits and starts, largely due to structural and funding changes tied to the legislative cycle. In 2017, the legislature ended the practice of contracting out to the nonprofit Wyoming Prevention Organization and instead placed prevention work under the authority of the Wyoming Department of Health.
In 2018, Ann Perkins was named the community prevention manager for Sheridan County and the county was allocated $385,777, some of which is designated for assessment and capacity enhancement activities.
Perkins designed the public input sessions to elicit feedback on the county’s current effectiveness in areas related to prevention such as communication, engagement, and sustainability.
The sessions were sparsely attended, and Perkins expressed a desire to see more “laypeople” at the table, as most of the participants were paid staff already engaged in prevention efforts.
Sheridan police Lt. Travis Koltiska, who attended a session on Thursday, said people aren’t as interested in a general prevention group and are far more likely to get involved in specific issues or events, such as the annual Out of Darkness community walk to bring attention to suicide.
Multiple participants expressed the opinion that community members aren’t aware of the severity of issues like drug abuse and sometimes are under the impression the problems don’t exist in our community. One participant said that Sheridan’s top-notch resources, such as the police department, do such a great job that many problems remain hidden from the general public.
Perkins theorized that some community members have been discouraged from involvement due to lack of results. She said that Sheridan County’s prevention efforts, in reality, have been more akin to crisis intervention rather than actual prevention. She would like to change this through raising awareness and providing quality training.
All Sheridan County School District #2 counselors have completed QPR training, and Perkins is a certified trainer for the suicide prevention method. QPR stands for question, persuade, and refer. Perkins said the training teaches people who interact with children on a daily basis to be direct when it comes to suicidal feelings or behavior.
Also, some Sheridan College staff have completed Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training(ASIST), a two-day interactive workshop in suicide intervention.
According to Lt. Koltiska, adult binge drinking is the biggest issue needing prevention in Sheridan. He said the majority of blood alcohol content tests performed in public intoxication cases return a result of more than .25 percent, three times the legal limit.
Juvenile Justice Office staff attending the Thursday session identified vaping, especially using JUUL products, as a major concern regarding local youth. The junior high and high school resource officers write citations “left and right” according to Lt. Koltiska. Educational programs, such as having a medical doctor speak on the harmful effects of vaping, are also employed in the schools.
According to one participant, it’s not just “bad kids” but all kinds of kids, including athletes, who think vaping is ok because it is “not as bad as cigarettes.”
“It’s hard to tell kids any behavior is bad,” said Dan Lindly, juvenile justice administrator. “That’s why we have to educate the parents.”
Next, Perkins will prepare a comprehensive work plan based, in part, on the feedback received in this week’s public sessions.