Recommendation Released on Youth Substance Use

A five-year strategic plan to prevent and address youth substance use in the City of Boston has been recommended and released by Mayor Martin Walsh.

“This plan takes us in a new direction of being intentional about equity and making sure that we are supporting all of our youth with the resources they need to overcome substance use disorder,” said Mayor Walsh.

The plan is the result of a comprehensive assessment of youth substance use and current prevention efforts in Boston.

In developing the plan, the City placed an emphasis on ensuring that the strategic plan promoted racial, ethnic, and economic equity, by including data from all Boston neighborhoods. A majority of Boston Public School (BPS) students (86 percent) identify as Black, Hispanic/Latino or Asian, but the advisory group and community stakeholders reported that youth substance use prevention resources were not widely accessible to these teens. The strategic plan aims to address this gap.

Additional findings of the report include:

Boston benefits from a variety of prevention efforts arising from community coalitions, social service agencies, nonprofits, and faith-based groups, but the existing prevention system lacks a coordinated effort with consistent messaging.

Boston youth are using a range of substances, including marijuana and alcohol, in much greater frequency than they use prescription opioids, highlighting the need for more inclusive language in substance use prevention campaigns.

Lifetime alcohol use among BPS high school students declined significantly between 2001 and 2015, from 74 percent to 55 percent, while lifetime marijuana use has increased slightly, from 40 percent to 42 percent.

Substance use was significantly higher among students who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, with current alcohol use over twice the rate among heterosexual BPS students.

Improving cross-sector coordination and expanding leadership to establish a coordinated youth substance use prevention strategy;

Expanding collection of data to better assess neighborhood-level trends in youth substance use;

Increasing the capacity of Boston’s youth-serving agencies to support prevention efforts

Using consistent prevention-related messaging across youth-serving agencies;

Building and improving pathways to prevention, intervention, and recovery supports for youth in all neighborhoods;

Engaging academic institutions, foundations, and public and private sectors to create a more robust and responsive approach to prevention.

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