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Cape Ann Drug Prevention Initiative Launches New Program

GLOUCESTER, MA – Healthy Gloucester Collaborative (HGC) in partnership with Gloucester Public Schools announces the launch of the LifeSkills Training Program, an initiative designed to strengthen the social and emotional development of middle school students, grades 6-8, to help them make healthy decisions and prevent drug use. Part of HGC’s Prevention Moving Forward campaign, the LifeSkills Program kicks off at the start of the new school year and will be integrated into the health class curriculum.

"If there is one thing that both the Healthy Gloucester Collaborative and the Gloucester Public School District consider a top priority, it is the health, safety, and well-being of our students," said Richard Safier, Ed.D., Superintendent of Gloucester Schools. "The LifeSkills Program is an important step in that direction, and drug prevention has long been an important part of the district’s health and science curriculum."

Youth supporting their peers is essential to prevent early onset of use, said HGC Director Joan Whitney. To support the LifeSkills Program, HGC, which serves as the lead agency for the prevention partnership, initiated and launched the "Regional Youth Leadership Symposium." The recent event at Project Adventure in Beverly convened more than 60 youth from Gloucester, Beverly and Danvers. The youth leadership training consisted of teambuilding exercises and skills training led by Social Capital, Inc., where participants expanded their leadership skills and strengthened healthy peer decision making and mentoring.

"The incorporation of the innovative program comes on the heels of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passing legislation calling for more in-depth approaches to educating children about the issues of substance use and abuse," said Safier.

The LifeSkills Program is rooted in evidence-based research that shows that early education and adoption of healthy habits lead to drug prevention, noted Whitney.

"A key to effective prevention means starting early with the youth of our community to support them in making healthy decisions for themselves with a sense of confidence, competence and caring," said Whitney. "It’s important that we nurture a generation of healthy, forward thinkers who will also be able to bring the social and emotional skills they learn to their peers and others in their lives."

The program is possible through the partnership of Healthy Gloucester Collaborative and Gloucester Public Schools, with the support of the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, said Whitney, adding that investing in youth development across the North Shore is a high priority for HGC’s Cape Ann, Beverly, Ipswich and Danvers prevention partners.

To prepare the community for the integration of the program, HGC organized a full-day certification training program, which included attendance from Gloucester Public school teachers, and community agency partners, such as the North Shore YMCA, children, friends and families, and Project Adventure.

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