Fairfield coalition to address top risk factor in drug use: Boredom from coronavirus shutdown

The Fairfield Prevention Coalition is transitioning to keep Fairfield city and township youth drug-free during this period of isolation during the novel coronavirus outbreak by using more digital and social media content. Pictured are participants during the coalition’s “Celebrate Youth!” event in February 2020 to honor the students that are part of its student coalition within the Fairfield City Schools. PROVIDED
The Fairfield Prevention Coalition is transitioning to keep Fairfield city and township youth drug-free during this period of isolation during the novel coronavirus outbreak by using more digital and social media content. Pictured are participants during the coalition’s “Celebrate Youth!” event in February 2020 to honor the students that are part of its student coalition within the Fairfield City Schools. PROVIDED

A big risk for children experimenting with drugs and alcohol is boredom, and as Ohio is under a stay-at-home order in hopes it curbs the novel coronavirus, that’s a worry for drug prevention advocates.

“They are unsupervised, they are bored and they have access to alcohol and prescription drugs. The easiest place to get that is your own refrigerator or your own medicine cabinet,” said Fairfield Prevention Coalition Executive Director Deb Neyer.

The coalition, however, is planning to take advantage of that extra time parents are spending with children, but not just about drug prevention. They’ll also address the potential for stress and anxiety of physical social isolation, Neyer said.

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Over the next 40 days, the Fairfield coalition and other groups around Butler County will create social media evidence-based content. Content includes short videos on engaging with their children about the COVID-19, and how to deal with anxiety and mental trauma of social isolation, she said.

The coalition also is sharing with parents how to deal with stress and anxiety related to COVID-19, through its website, www.fairfieldcoalition.org, and social media, Neyer said.

Schools have been out since the week of March 17, only pandemic-licensed child care facilities can remain open as of Thursday, and DeWine Administration orders have mandated Ohioans stay at home in social isolation and keep six feet apart in public.

Traditional prevention programming is being discarded during this time of social distancing and isolation, and Neyer said she and others within the drug prevention field need to look at the new risk factors. Risk factors include untreated mental health issues, access to prescription drugs and alcohol — and in some cases access to the harder drugs — and boredom.

Neyer said it’s been difficult to engage parents but hope with their increase digital activity, such as keeping closer tabs with friends and family on social media, and remote work from home.

Neyer said parents engagement improved with February’s inaugural “Celebrate Youth!” that showcased the coalition’s student groups, and hopes they can build on this “special opportunity we have with parents.”

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”We have this momentum with engaging parents, so how can we keep this going,” she said.

This weekend, Neyer said the Fairfield Prevention Coalition will tackle access to alcohol and prescription drugs in the home. Later videos “will be drilling down on the 40 developmental assets which are protective factors through relationships with our kids that we build into them.”

To keep students on track with drug prevention practices, all members of the freshman and high school student coalition are contacted daily to share coping skills, said Pat VanOflen, of the Fairfield Prevention Coalition. Parents of middle school students are emailed weekly, she said.

VanOflen will also start journaling daily during this period of social isolation, but “most of all I think we need to be flexible to what changes are occurring daily and then help them to help others in their social network to adapt in a positive way.”

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