Underage alcohol and drug use remain one of the most serious public health threats facing adolescents in the Western New York region. According to the Center for Disease Control, accidental overdose has become one of the leading causes of death in the last decade among people ages 18-25. Underage drug and alcohol use often result in perilous outcomes for youth, as the consequences have longer term and far reaching implications. The Center for Addiction reports that 9 out of 10 people with addiction started using substances before they turned 18.
Young adults continue to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana recreationally without realizing the consequences of this behavior. According to a recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over half of high school seniors have consumed alcohol in the last year and a third of seniors have used marijuana in the past year. Through a survey of area school children who utilized our Face2Face Program, we have learned that accessibility to substances is no different for children in our city, suburban, or rural school districts. In fact, these substances are likely readily available in their own homes, including prescription pain medications.
The opioid crisis alone has truly transformed into an epidemic that is ravaging communities across the Western New York region. According to the Erie County Health Department in 2017 there were 268 confirmed opioid related deaths in Erie County and the next big threat to teens is right around the corner. We are noticing an increase in the use of vaping devices among middle and high school students. Not only are these devices directly marketed toward teens in similar ways that cigarettes were marketed in the 60s and 70s but vaping devices are now available that allow the user to discretely vape marijuana making them even more dangerous than was first suspected. With the ever changing drugs trends, the need for community outreach and education about the dangers of experimentation and consequences of substance abuse and addiction is needed now more than ever.
Kids Escaping Drugs (KED) was founded in 1987 as a community action campaign committed to addressing the lack of suitable treatment options for adolescents struggling with chemical dependency. During this time, children seeking help were limited to adult facilities for care. Due to lack of adequate options, many teens received little to no treatment. Through substantial community support, the Campaign was able to begin building the Renaissance Campus, a treatment facility dedicated to providing specialized care for adolescents ages 12-20, in 1990. By 2002, the Campus had grown to five buildings including three residential treatment houses. The latest milestone came in 2018, with the expansion our services to include stabilization and reintegration making us the only provider in the state of NY to offer these services to the under 18 populations. These two new levels of care now allow us to treat young adults up to the age of 23. To accommodate these additional levels a new state of the art residence was constructed for females and an existing building was repurposed for males. Currently, the Renaissance Campus is a 77 bed treatment facility serving adolescents and their families across WNY.
The Renaissance Campus has created a safe and supportive environment for patients that utilizes evidence-based practices with a person centered approach. While in treatment, patients have full access to a wide range of programming which has been specially developed to nurture recovery and prepare each individual to re-enter the community with the tools needed to live a substance free lifestyle. Such programs include family programming, art therapy, recreational activities, and group therapy. Patients are able to continue their education while in treatment or prepare for the TASC exam. Mental health professionals assist with treatment of co-occurring disorders and medical staff is always available.
In 2008, KED launched an innovative outreach and awareness program named Face2Face in response to an increased need for community education. Over the past 10 years the Face2Face initiative has expanded and developed into a comprehensive program with several areas of focus including Peer2Peer panels, workplace presentations, early interventions, and an annual youth leadership summit. Through education, Face2Face strives to eliminate the stigma associated with the disease of addiction by sharing real faces and stories that shatter preconceived stereotypes. KED is proud to offer all Face2Face services at no-cost to participants.
The Face2Face Peer2Peer programming involves interactive panel presentations for students which feature real and poignant stories of addiction shared by young adults in recovery. These panels aim to educate students on the dangers and consequences that accompany substance abuse. Starting with just six schools in the first year, Face2Face now brings Peer2Peer panel presentations to over 160 local area schools and community organizations.
The Face2Face in the Workplace features a similar style panel presentation with content specifically developed to educate adults on the signs, symptoms and trends of adolescent substance abuse while also raising awareness of the resources available to families in Western New York. Based on feedback from individuals who have attended a Face2Face in the Workplace presentation, almost all have reported a better understanding of substance abuse trends among teens.
In contrast, Face2Face Early Interventions are one-time private family sessions for adolescents who have been identified as “at-risk”. During this session an Interventionist Counselor meets with the adolescent and their parent or guardian to discuss the actions leading up to the meeting. Both parent and child have the opportunity to speak individually with other young people in recovery who can share similar experiences and offer advice. The Face2Face Early Intervention Program is a proactive approach to impede future substance abuse and addiction. This program has been widely successful with 89% of parents reporting their child had reduced or stopped substance use after attending a Face2Face Early Intervention.
The Face2Face Leadership Summits are an annual event for over 500 middle and high school student leaders. During these conference-style summits, students experience various presentations and attend break-out sessions.
Finally, in the fall of 2018, KED launched our Face2Face Afterschool Program. This innovative program will teach younger students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol using music, art, writing and sports.
KED is dedicated to providing a full spectrum of resources to the community. Through the Face2Face Program and the Renaissance Campus, KED reaches tens of thousands of adolescents and their families each year. In the face of the current opioid epidemic, KED has risen to action. There is, however, much work to be done. KED remains committed to reaching every community in WNY with viable education for both adolescents and adults, while also providing services to intervene in the early stages of adolescent addiction when treatment can be most effective. It is the hope that with Face2Face outreach and awareness, the stigma of addiction can be eliminated.