(Chelsea Update would like to thank Rebecca Jaskot for the information in this story and Chrissy Grzadzinski for the photos.)
Representatives from SRSLY recently returned from Washington, D.C., where they joined approximately 2,800 substance abuse prevention specialists and advocates from throughout the country for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America’s (CADCA) 29th Annual National Leadership Forum, held from Feb. 4-7, at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center.
With more than 430 youth in attendance, the forum broke its record for youth involvement. Six SRSLY youth attended the conference and participated in a Youth Leadership Initiative to learn how to apply CADCA’s prevention model in their own communities.
During the Capitol Hill Day event, SRSLY and other forum attendees met with U.S. Representative Tim Walberg, Senator Debbie Stabenow and Senator Gary Peters. During these meetings, coalition members talked about the importance of national funding for prevention, and the youth informed leaders about specific needs in Chelsea.
“Attending CADCA was a great opportunity for young people to really share their opinions,” said SRSLY Chelsea Coalition Director Lindsay Baker. “Being able to meet with legislators and have them share their concerns about their community was a very empowering experience.”
On the final day of the conference, First Lady Melania Trump spoke to youth leaders about the opioid epidemic. She also encouraged young people to continue their prevention work and to make a difference in their communities.
Chelsea High School student and SRSLY youth member Riley Thorburn attended forum for the third time this year.
“I still continue to have amazing new experiences,” Thorburn said in a press release. “I’ve gotten more interested and trained in public policy as well as meeting my legislators. I even was able to shake the surgeon general’s hand. This year has taught me the levels of change even a youth can accomplish.”
Several national prevention leaders spoke at the conference, including Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Jerome M. Adams and Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Jim Carroll. The conference also featured speakers and trainings from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
CADCA’s National Leadership Forum is the nation’s largest training event for community prevention leaders, treatment professionals and researchers. The Forum covered a wide range of topics – everything from how to prevent prescription drug abuse to addressing the increase in electronic cigarettes use. The conference also covered trending marijuana issues and how to develop policies to reduce underage drinking.