The Arlington Youth Health and Safety Coalition (AYHSC) is a group of concerned community members, organizations and public agencies, and representatives from local and state government united in their goal of preventing and reducing underage drinking and substance abuse in Arlington. To this end, AYHSC employs multiple strategies to influence positive, community-wide change.
AYHSC operates within the Department of Health and Human Services, out of the Office of the Board of Health. AYHSC employs one full time staff person, the Coalition Director, and two part-time staff, the Coalition Coordinator and the Diversion Program Coordinator. In addition, the Coalition receives in-kind personnel support from other town employees including the School Resource Officer and the Director of Health and Human Services.
As a grant recipient of the Drug Free Communities Program (DFC), AYHSC received $125,000 in federal funding in 2009, the first in a five-year grant cycle. During its first year as a DFC grantee, AYHSC generated more than the required 100% in matching funds for the federal award, largely through in-kind support. In addition, AYHSC was allocated $100,000 in state funding through a one-time MA Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS) earmark. With the financial backing of the DFC program and BSAS, and the in-kind support of town agencies, AYHSC activated a comprehensive strategic plan to restrict youth access to alcohol and other drugs, and to change permissive community attitudes towards underage drinking and substance abuse.
In 2009, AYHSC:
- Hosted its 3rd Annual Community Forum featuring co-authors of From Binge to Blackout, as well as a panel of local specialists and law enforcement officials.
- Created the Arlington Youth Council to facilitate young people’s involvement in preventing youth substance abuse in Arlington. In 2009, the Youth Council implemented:
- “Friday Night Lights,” a large-scale, substance-free event for teens.
- “Sticker Shock” a campaign to raise awareness about the minimum drinking age law.
- Coordinated Alcohol Awareness and Responsible Sales Seminars for the Arlington Liquor Licensing Board, Law Enforcement and alcohol retailers.
- Collaborated with Arlington Police Department to conduct alcohol sales compliance checks and a reverse sting operation called “Cops in Shops.”
- Organized two unwanted medication collection events to help community members rid their homes of commonly abused medications.
- Partnered with the Arlington Police, the Department of Recreation and Health and Human Services to offer a free, four-day summer program to 100 Arlington youth.
- Trained 11 community members to facilitate Guiding Good Choices, a parenting program to improve family management and communication, and to reduce risk factors for youth substance abuse.
- Partnered with Calvary Church to pilot Guiding Good Choices in Arlington.
- Wrote a monthly column in the Arlington Advocate.
- Funded Coalition volunteers to attend trainings about youth risk behaviors, mental health and substance abuse, and community-based prevention strategies.
*Members and community affiliates of AYHSC include individual community members; the Departments of Health and Human Services, Police, Recreation and Public Works; the Arlington Public Schools; the Board of Selectmen; the Board of Youth Services; MA Department of Children and Families; the Arlington Boys and Girls Club; the Arlington Advocate; Arlington Community Media inc; Calvary and Highrock Churches; Law Enforcement Dimensions; the Arlington Youth Council and the Arlington SADD club; State Representatives Brownsberger and Garballey.