As the opioid epidemic sweeps the nation, New Hampshire has become a focal point in the national consciousness. Many regional organizations are working to identify new approaches that address not only substance misuse, but also health and wellness. While many of these organizations focus on treatment and recovery, some have focused more on prevention and addressing community and cultural needs. Lebanon Partners United for Safety and Health (PUSH) is one such initiative.
PUSH is a partnership of community members, students, parents, and stakeholders in Lebanon. The group focuses on education, communication, networking, leadership development, and providing practical resources to promote greater health and safety for youth and their families. PUSH is especially concerned with the areas of substance misuse, suicide prevention, and crisis intervention and response. Their current initiatives are focused on reducing the harms from youth and young adult marijuana use in the Lebanon School District. One of the ways PUSH aims to achieve this goal is through improving community attachment for youth and young adults, as well as increasing access to healthy activities.
At the most recent meeting of PUSH, members discussed the issue that 64 percent of Lebanon youth say they are not utilizing community programs and services. As part of that discussion, the group brainstormed activities for youth, young adults, and families in Lebanon. As part of their work, however, the group discovered that there are already many free or low-cost activities and events that attract a wide range of ages.
Lebanon Recreation and Parks offers teen programming after school and during the summer and school breaks. The Summer Outdoor Adventures program offered Lebanon teens opportunities to spend their vacations rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking on the Connecticut River, stand up paddleboarding, and through-hiking the Appalachian Trail. In the winter, programming includes ski trips, ice fishing, and excursions to indoor adventures throughout the state. Meanwhile, the Lebanon Libraries offer teen book groups, hands-on computer building, free movies, and comic workshops. The library’s TechGirlz series was open to middle school girls this summer and offered workshops in podcasting, designing mobile apps, coding, and website design.
Given the teen programming already in place, PUSH’s next priority is finding ways to help youth overcome the barriers to accessing the plentiful programs throughout the city. Angie LeDuc, the Drug-Free Community Partnership Coordinator for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Community Health, says, “The goal of PUSH is to be a connector. We are looking to protect young people and help them feel understood and have a connection to their community.”
PUSH has meetings approximately every four weeks in locations throughout Lebanon and they are open to the public. The group welcomes new members. Members of PUSH have the chance to gain experience working on public health issues, network with other community members, and be a part of positive community change. For more information about joining the group or attending a meeting, visit uvalltogether.com or email Angie.M.Leduc@hitchcock.org