At its core, prevention is about educating people to make healthy decisions, but changing behavior isn’t always easy. It can take concerted effort to correct misinformation, teach positive coping skills, instill values and principles of healthy decision making, or drive awareness of problems that exist in the communities where we live and thrive. To help our prevention partners in their quest to serve their communities, we provide educational resources and support to thousands of prevention professionals and organizations. Those resources include:

Training Ohio’s Prevention Workforce

One of the fundamental ways we support prevention across communities is by developing the prevention workforce. During fiscal year 2020, between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, we provided more than 3,000 people the skills and strategies they needed to prevent substance misuse and promote mental health wellness in their community. These workshops, conferences, webinars, and other skill-building sessions ranged in content from fundamental prevention knowledge to emerging solutions for combatting the youth vaping epidemic to how to support schools, parents, and children as they resume school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting Parents and Teachers

We also continued to provide direct support to teachers and parents through our Know! Parent Tips and Know! Teachable Moments. These Know! tips help parents, educators, and other caring adults play their role in prevention by protecting the young person in their lives from unhealthy behaviors, including alcohol, tobacco, and drug use. The COVID-19 pandemic puts young people and parents under incredible stress, and we made sure we supported them by finding ways they can combat feelings of stress, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression and sharing those techniques through the Know! program. During the 2019 fiscal year, we shared these tips with more than 60,000 parents and teachers monthly.

Helping Families Across Ohio: Amy’s Story

Amy Macechko

Amy Macechko always had a passion for working with teenagers and communities. She studied at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and began her career teaching high school psychology in Illinois. When she and her husband moved to Ohio, she found herself chasing those same passions in a different way. In 2006, she came to work as the health and wellness coordinator at the Talawanda School District and as the project coordinator for the Coalition for a Healthy Community – Oxford Area.

“I always had a passion for mental health and working with young people,” Amy said. “I was looking for opportunities to work with youth and the community, and this was a perfect blend of what I wanted to do.”

In her role, she helps the parents, community, and school district staff in supporting the healthy development of all young people in the school district. It’s a big job—the Talawanda School District serves approximately 3,000 students in not only Oxford, but also the surrounding Oxford, Milford, Hanover, and Reily Townships. Her role frequently involved collaborating with businesses, doctors and pediatricians, clergy, government leaders, parents, teachers, school administrators, and many others.

To help her do that, she relies on Know! Parent Tips. Know! Parent Tips are a free resource from Prevention Action Alliance for parents, teachers, and others who work with young people. They share timely information about how to have conversations with young people about substances, mental health, and a wide host of other health-related topics. Amy sends each, twice-monthly Know! Parent Tip to the Talawanda School District, Coalition members, and a list of community members.

“Know! Parent Tips are a great tool to open the door and show the shared interests we have with our partners,” Amy said. “We all have a role to play in prevention. It is vital that every caring adult assesses who are those young people that I can talk to and help.

“Parents and caregivers are the single greatest protective factor in the lives of young people,” Amy said. “It’s more important now than ever that they know this. Our youth are getting messages left and right and some are true and some aren’t. As adults, we have to make sure that we’re giving them accurate information.”

Over the years, Amy has said she’s seen and heard parents interact in different ways with the Know! Parent Tips she helps disseminate. One parent, she said, uses the Know! tips as a checklist to ensure that she’s having conversations about current trends influencing her children—influences like e-cigarettes, underage drinking, cyberbullying, and more.

Now, she appreciates that the Know! tips address other current trends, including how to talk to kids about the George Floyd protests and COVID-19 as well as how to host fun, social, and virtual neighborhood activities.

“Prevention Action Alliance is taking the lead in providing parents with these not-easy-to-have conversations but breaking them down into manageable talks,” Amy said. “What’s happening in the world today is having a tremendous impact on the mental health of our youth. When young people are anxious or scared, they turn to substance use or their mental health worsens. It’s critical that we help our young people.”

“The Know! tips provide us with relevant, timely material that we can share with parents, caregivers, and other caring adults who interact with the young people in the Talawanda School District,” said Amy. “Know! tips empower adults in our communities to know the role they play in prevention and give them the talking points they need to have these difficult conversations with the young people in their lives.”