Tackling the issue of teen substance abuse, including the growing prescription drug abuse epidemic, was the focus of a day long conference Thursday hosted by Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan and Middlesex Partnerships for Youth, Inc.
More than 200 local school officials, social workers and law enforcement personnel attended SECURE XV, an annual conference to address issues of health and safety for teens. The conference, titled “Understanding and Preventing Adolescent Substance Abuse” featured District Attorney Ryan and Dr. Scott Lukas, a pharmacologist and Harvard University professor of psychiatry. The event was held at the Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford.
“Preventing drug use among our youth continues to be a top priority for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office,” DA Ryan said. “Earlier intervention and prevention is necessary to attack this growing epidemic, reduce crime and lead our teens on a path to success. As adults, we must continue to reinforce efforts to teach our young people to make healthy choices every day. With events like SECURE and many other programs, we can provide our school leaders with the tools they need to address these issues in our county’s high schools and middle schools.”
Dr. Lucas spoke about how the development of the adolescent brain leaves young people susceptible to drug use and at the most risk for drug dependence the earlier they experiment with illegal substances. The program focused on warning signs and effective ways to intervene when adolescents become involved in substance use. He also discussed prevention and treatment strategies for school and law enforcement officials to bring back to their communities.
This was the 15th annual conference as part of the SECURE (Safe and Effective Community Understanding and Response to Emergencies) program. SECURE was created in 1999 as a pilot program in Newton designed to provide participants with an opportunity to experience hands-on training in school and community-based emergency situations.
District Attorney Ryan is the Chair of the Board of Directors of Middlesex Partnerships for Youth, Inc. (MPY), a non-profit organization which provides prevention and intervention resources and training to Middlesex school districts and communities. Today, in collaboration with the District Attorney’s Office, over 60 Middlesex school districts are committed to examining the pressing social, legal, and health-related issues and solutions that face schools and communities. Through the current and future activities of MPY, educators, parents, and students can regularly engage in collaborative trainings with law enforcement, social services, and community-based organizations as well as share the latest information and resources. Such interactions provide the foundation for creating solution-oriented, community-based, multi-disciplinary approaches to addressing youth violence, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, hate crimes, and harassment across Middlesex County .
Middlesex County is the largest county in Massachusetts and one of the largest counties in the country with 54 towns and cities and 20 colleges in urban, suburban, and rural areas, comprising over one quarter of the population of Massachusetts . The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has offices throughout the county, including communities such as Ayer, Cambridge , Concord , Framingham , Lowell , Malden , Marlborough , Natick , Newton , Somerville , Waltham and Woburn .
– Information from the office of the Middlesex District Attorney