The Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS) provides a litany of programs devoted to curving the tide of youth drug and alcohol abuse in Arkansas.
Among those initiatives is the DBHS Youth Prevention Leadership Conference.
The 2017 event was held at the C.A. Vines 4H Center. More than 30 organizations – each of which receive government funding from DBHS – and nearly 300 youth, were represented at the summit, which emphasized the importance of avoiding drug and alcohol use.
“The conference provides a forum for youth in Arkansas to express their views on the causes of underage drinking and prescription drug use,” said Tenesha Barnes, DBHS early intervention and prevention manager. “The ways to possibly deter youth from partaking in those dangerous acts was also discussed. Throughout the summit youth attended workshops that focused on the prevention of underage drinking and prescription drug abuse. There were also workshops which educated our youth on team building skills.”
This year, several of the aforementioned courses and discussions were planned and conducted by the youth. The teens were encouraged to assist in organizing the summit in an effort to further promote leadership, responsibility, and quality decision-making abilities.
“The basic focus of the conference was to build upon the knowledge our youth already have about the negative impact of drug and alcohol use,” said DBHS Prevention Services Program Manager, Joycelyn Pettus. “The youth are well-versed on the dangers of drug and alcohol use due to the continual prevention measures they’re taught throughout the year by the leaders of their respective organization.”
Candid conversations about situations, causes, and results of drug and alcohol abuse also highlighted the summit.
“We discussed community-based processes which combat youth drug and alcohol use,” Pettus says. “The topics of community team building, systematic planning, collaborating with different agencies, how to alter the social norms, and how to help establish policies in their schools received plenty of attention, as well. We also explained to the teens the prevention treatment spectrum and the maintenance and recovery spectrum and how they’re tied together.”
Courses offered during the conference were: Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF 101) – which addressed all things relating to substance abuse prevention; the rising opioid epidemic and how prescription drug awareness can be used to combat the crises; leadership and motivation – which encouraged youth to be genuine and not fall victim to peer-pressure; being humble while pursuing various goals; and inspiring friends to make the right choices.
In terms of levity and entertainment – a fashion showcase, MidSouth Madness challenge, group activity sessions, color fun competitions, and a luau were held.
“The teens love this conference,” Pettus said. “They’re always eager to interact with their colleagues from other regions of the state to show them the drug and alcohol abuse programs they are using in their respective communities. And of course, the teens like having good, clean fun as well.”
DBHS is responsible for ensuring the provision of public behavioral health services, including mental health and substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery services throughout the State of Arkansas. The Division supports, certifies, licenses, and funds behavioral health providers throughout the state.
For more information about the services of DBHS go to http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/dbhs/Pages/default.aspx
Cutline: In the photo above, Tenesha Barnes – DBHS early intervention and prevention manager – showcases t-shirts worn by a group of youth during the leadership conference.