Changes in marijuana policy require greater youth protection

Guest speak Dr. Kevin Sabet speaks to an audience at Fuller Village in Milton on "Protecting Our Youth: Marijuana Policy in the Age of Legalization." The Milton Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition sponsored his presentation.

(Photo by Steven Nelson)

With the second year of a five-year federal grant in hand, the Milton Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (MSAPC) has vowed to continue its work to address addiction among youth and adults.

“We’ve just been given notice that we’ve been approved for year two of the matching grant. We’re excited,” MSAPC Director Laurie Stillman said.

The matching grant provides $125,000 and kicked in on Sept. 30. It relies on a dollar for dollar match in local support and according to Stillman, the MSAPC is close to reaching that goal.

MSAPC has again set goals for its education and support programs for the upcoming year. They are to address the dangers of vaping, underage drinking, and marijuana use, as well as mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, that often drive people to use the substances.

MSAPC is also establishing a Youth Action Commission aimed at giving teenagers more of a voice and a more active role in addressing their needs and to “help the community understand what is like to walk in their shoes,” Stillman said.

The grant is part of a Drug Free Communities grant and those funds are restricted to youth prevention efforts.

“The coalition is concerned with supporting adults as well,” said Stillman, adding that it continues to rely on the support of the community for its work with adults.

Stillman said that Gov. Charlie Baker’s recent decision to ban the sale of vaping products for four months will not eliminate the problem of teen vaping but could give health officials a chance to find out the cause of the horrible respiratory symptoms that teenagers have experienced across the county.

“We’re happy to see this ban for the time being,” Stillman said.

The MSAPC works through the town’s Health Department with local groups including faith communities, the Milton Police Department, and the Milton Public Schools.

“It’s our community coming together in many different ways to support the coalition,” Stillman said.

Stillman explained that the local match money comes from a variety of sources including in-kind contributions, a budget earmark advocated for by state Sen. Walter Timilty, proceeds donated through Mike’s 5K to Crush Substance Abuse, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, and a myriad of residents and community groups.

Stillman said the coalition’s goals for youth during the upcoming year were based on the recently released results of the Youth Risk Survey.

These results showed that Milton is “quite a bit above the state average for vaping” of nicotine and marijuana use among teens and underage drinking, she said.

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