With new data, coalition will target family environments

BROOKVILLE — Informative data collected in 2009 through the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) was presented Tuesday by the Clearfield-Jefferson Drug Free Communities Coalition (DFCC) and Jefferson County Children & Youth Services (CYS).

The PAYS is submitted to students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12 every two years. The data was received late last year, and the two agencies have now designed a new program to target the key risk factors.

That program is Strengthening Families, which will be administered by Communities that Care, and focus on the relationships that troubled youth in grades four through eight have with their parents.

Parental training will also be offered as part of the program.

The youth participating will be targeted through Jefferson County Juvenile Probation and CYS. Other interested parents can also attend, free of charge.

The program was selected by analyzing the risk factors that were most prevalent, or conversely, the protective factors that were most lacking.

“With risk factors, definitely the keyword is likelihood,” CYS Director Brian Mowrey said. “We are not saying because of this factor, they will definitely do something. It doesn’t mean that it will happen, but it is a good predictor.”

The highest risk factor was “parental attitudes favorable to antisocial behavior,” Malissa Martino, DFCC coordinator, said. More than 60 percent of the 845 responding students in Jefferson County selected answers that indicated that risk factor. That figure is more than 10 percent higher than the national average.

Another high risk factor was a low perceived risk of drug use, and the availability of firearms was a possible risk factor.

However, Martino said that was possibly mistakenly identified because the survey is the same for all Pennsylvania youth, and accessibility to firearms is much different for youth in Philadelphia, for example, than in Jefferson County.

“I think that has more to do with culture, and they are not necessarily used with juvenile delinquency,” she said.

The Strengthening Families program will utilize grant money. The program will consist of seven sessions, with hopefully 10 to 15 families attending each session.

“There will be one session a week, two hours per session, for seven weeks,” Martino
said. “Lessons will include having clear consequences for actions and having understood discipline.”

She said four booster sessions will be held about six months after the conclusion of the initial program.

“This is a prevention program, hoping to catch kids before they fall into delinquent behavior,” Mowrey said. “This acts as an enhancement to programs that we already have. We do have quality programs in the county.”

Mowrey added that other programs were “not as stringently focused on this age group,” and this program was unique because of the “parent component.”

“Strengthening Families most clearly focuses on the primary risk factors,” Martino said. “The hope is that in two to four years, we see the benefits. Hopefully, the 2013 PAYS sees these risk factors dip.”

Martino acknowledged that poverty was the hardest risk factor to address, and that risk factor can exacerbate problems with family relationships. For that reason, Strengthening Families will provide a meal to all who attend.

“I know that it’s not much, but at least they will have one sit-down meal together, free of charge,” she said.

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The survey was validated through the use of four techniques:
• The survey of any student who reported an average of four or more daily uses of inhalants, cocaine, hallucinogens, Ecstasy, methamphetamine or heroin were deemed to be invalid. The survey claims that students who responded to this level of drug use did not take the survey seriously.
• Surveys from students who reported more than 80 instances in the past year of attacking someone with the intent to harm, attempting to steal a vehicle, being arrested or getting suspended from school were deemed to be invalid.
• The survey lists several fictitious drugs, and if students claim to use fictitious drugs, the survey is deemed invalid.
• Surveys from students who reported inconsistent information were deemed to be invalid. An example of inconsistency would be if a student reported drug use in the past 30 days, but then later reported never using drugs in his/her lifetime.
Only 45 of the 845 surveys collected in Jefferson County were deemed invalid.

Survey statistics
Use at any point in lifetime
• Alcohol — 51 percent.
• Cigarettes — 38 percent.
• Smokeless Tobacco — 27 percent.
• Marijuana — 18 percent.
• Inhalants — 15 percent.
• Cocaine — Two percent.
• Crack Cocaine — One percent.
• Heroin — One percent.
• Hallucinogens — Four percent.
• Methamphetamine — Two percent.
• Ecstasy — Two percent.
• Steroids — One percent.
• Illicit drugs other than marijuana — 17 percent.

Use in past 30 days
• Alcohol — 29 percent, with 17 percent reporting binge drinking.
• Cigarettes — 19 percent.
• Smokeless Tobacco — 17 percent.
• Inhalants — 15 percent.
• Cocaine — One percent.
• Crack Cocaine — One percent.
• Heroin — One percent.
• Hallucinogens — Two percent.
• Methamphetamine — Zero percent.
• Ecstasy — One percent.
• Steroids — One percent.
• Illicit drugs other than marijuana — Seven percent.

By Grade, Lifetime Alcohol Use
• Sixth — 14 percent.
• Eighth — 40 percent.
• 10th — 65 percent.
• 11th — 65 percent.

By Grade, Lifetime Marijuana Use
• Sixth — Zero percent.
• Eighth — Six percent.
• 10th — 28 percent.
• 12th — 28 percent.