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Spa City group helps youth live healthier lives through a myriad of services

Prevention Council School Services director Pat Marin shows guests the difference between a smoker’s lung and a healthy lung.

Prevention Council School Services director Pat Marin shows guests the difference between a smoker’s lung and a healthy lung.

— One thing that staff recognized fairly early on was that behind substance abuse often lay an inability to use coping mechanisms, and at that point the scope of the center was broadened.

A lot of people ask what The Prevention Council’s biggest accomplishment has been, and Kisselback doesn’t hesitate to hint that just being present and having endured three decades is pretty big.

“Here you had nothing about prevention at all and you had this issue and nobody was addressing it until after the fact. You ended up in rehab or in treatment. Judy took that, flipped it around and turned it into this prevention model and introduced it to the county, from there it continued to grow,” said Kisselback.

Heather Kisselback’s philosophy centers on the vital component of networking within the community.

“It takes a village, but prevention doesn’t work unless everyone is involved. Just one class in the school district isn’t going to make a difference; we really need to approach it from all levels. That’s what a lot of our work focuses on and that’s why you see we have so many programs,” said Kisselback.

One of the most successful programs is the Saratoga Springs Partnership for Prevention, which is based on coalitions among the surrounding towns forged over the past 12 years consisting of school officials, businesses people, parents, youth, the police and other local nonprofits that work with youth. Members meet once a month and conduct yearly surveys at each school in grades six through 12.

Results of the surveys and meetings are used to build programs based on identified needs. Part of the hands-on approach incorporates small focus groups where teenagers can talk freely with staff from the center, which often yields vital information such as where kids are getting alcohol and drugs.

When Partnership for Prevention started, the 12th-gradedrinking rate was around the 60 percent mark, above state and national averages. Now it’s in the 40s. While that number has dropped, a survey from2008 showed that prescription drug abuse rates were at 5 percent in the schools and in 2010 it went to 10 percent. The fact that it jumped in two years throws up a red flag and is an example where programming at The Prevention Council is adjusted.

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