Despite the headlines of meth and heroin use, underage drinking is still a problem in Pine County. Last year, a state Planning and Implementation (P&I) grant was awarded to Pine County Health and Human Services (HHS) to prevent underage drinking among youth specifically within the East Central (EC) and Hinckley-Finlayson (HF) school districts.
The Pine County Chemical Health Coalition is an important partner for the P&I Grant, along with EC and HF schools, local businesses and community members. The coalition, previously known as The Pine County Meth Task Force, is working to prevent the misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs across Pine County. Beyond working in support of the grant, the Coalition also hosted an opioids and heroin awareness forum this spring and also awarded one-time grants to every school district in Pine County for various prevention efforts.
Lynette Forbes-Cardey, Pine County health educator/alcohol prevention coordinator, gave an update to the Pine County board at the last regular meeting on July 18 at the Pine County Courthouse. She spoke about the first year of the five-year grant, stating, “This has been a busy year for the Pine County Chemical Health Coalition, and for myself, the grant coordinator. The Coalition did a lot of work preparing to apply for this grant. It continues to grow with new members, new prevention focused events, development of a yearly plan, and the energizing of learning opportunities for coalition members.”
She reported that much of the first year of the grant for her has been spent learning about the positive community norms approach to prevention which involves using positive messages and correcting misperceptions to promote healthy choices among youth. She also has been getting to know the teachers, principals and administrators at East Central and Hinckley-Finlayson Schools, and meeting with other key members of the communities within these school districts.
As part of the positive community norms approach, the Pine County Chemical Health Coalition launched its “Stand Together” campaign with a billboard that was placed on I-35 just north of Hinckley. Other activities have taken place within East Central and Hinckley-Finlayson schools to further this message directly to the students.
"When students understand that it is actually the norm, what most students do, NOT to use alcohol this reinforces their own decision not to use alcohol. The majority of youth in our area are making very good choices when it comes to not using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs." said Forbes-Cardey. “I am looking forward to the next year where we will see more events for youth and families, our information campaign for youth, parents, and other adults; and even more learning opportunities for myself and coalition members.”
What the research says
Grants like this one are largely based on research and data. The Minnesota Departments of Education, Human Services, Health, and Public Safety conducted a public school student survey in 2016, and the results have become publicly available for East Central, Hinckley-Finlayson and other public schools around the state.
The Minnesota Student Survey is conducted every three years among three populations of students in Minnesota public schools: students in regular public schools, including charter schools and tribal schools; students in alternative schools and Area Learning Centers; and students in juvenile correctional facilities.
The survey asks questions about activities, experiences, opinions and behaviors. Topics covered include tobacco, alcohol and drug use, school climate, physical activity, violence and safety, connections with school and family, health and other topics. Questions about sexual activity are asked only of high school students. The survey is administered jointly by the Minnesota Departments of Education, Health, Human Services and Public Safety.
As far as validity of responses, caution was taken to identify invalid responses and remove them from the analysis. Surveys were eliminated when responses were highly inconsistent or there was a pattern of likely exaggeration.
The 2016 Minnesota Student Survey was administered to students in grades 5, 8, 9, and 11 statewide. The survey was voluntary at all levels. Districts, schools, parents, and students could all choose to opt out. More than 80 percent of public school districts chose to participate, however.
The following sections below contain a number of results from the East Central and Hinckley-Finlayson 11th- and eighth-grade students, unless otherwise noted.
• When East Central eighth-graders were asked if they lived with someone who drinks too much, 12 percent of them said they did (9 percent statewide), while 4 percent of 11th-graders said they did (11 percent statewide).
• When asked if they lived with anyone who uses illegal drugs or abuses prescription drugs, 10 percent of eighth-graders stated they did (4 percent statewide), while 7 percent of 11th-graders stated they did (5 percent statewide).
• Of Hinckley-Finlayson eighth-grade students asked if they live with someone who drinks too much alcohol, 5 percent of them said they did, and of 11th-graders asked the same question, 14 percent said they did.
• Of Hinckley-Finlayson eighth-graders asked if they live with anyone who uses illegal drugs or abuses prescription drugs, 14 percent said they did, and 7 percent of 11th-graders said they did.
• When asked about alcohol, marijuana or other drug use, 65 percent of East Central eighth-graders (79 percent statewide) stated they have had no alcohol, marijuana or other drug use in the past year, and 44 percent of 11th-graders (51 percent statewide) said they have not used in the past year.
• Of Hinckley-Finlayson eighth-graders, 70 percent said they have had no alcohol, marijuana or other drug use in the past year, and 48 percent of 11th-graders said they have had no use of these drugs in the past year.
• In surveying younger East Central students, 7 percent of fifth-graders stated they have had alcoholic beverages in the past 12 months (5 percent statewide), and 2 percent of East Central fifth-graders stated they have used marijuana or hashish (1 percent statewide). And 2 percent of East Central fifth-graders stated they used prescription drugs that have not been prescribed to them in the past 12 months (1 percent statewide).
• Of Hinckley-Finlayson fifth-graders, 2 percent said they have had alcoholic beverages in the last 12 months, and 5 percent said they have used marijuana or hashish in the last 12 months. Two percent of Hinckley-Finlayson fifth-graders said they have used prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them.
• Of 11th-graders who have tried marijuana or hashish (26 percent of total students surveyed said they have used these drugs), most of East Central students said they were 16 years old when they first tried the drug. This is the same of students statewide; 29 percent of total students surveyed said they have used these drugs.
• Of Hinckley-Finlayson 11th-graders (30 percent of total students surveyed said they have used these drugs) who have tried marijuana or hashish, the majority of students were 15 when they first tried it.
• One-hundred percent of East Central 11th-graders said they have not used hallucinogens, ecstasy, cocaine, meth or heroin in the last 12 months (99 percent statewide), while 4 percent of East Central eighth-graders (1 percent statewide) said they have used one of those drugs in the last 12 months.
• Of Hinckley-Finlayson 11th-graders, 99 percent said they have not used hallucinogens, ecstasy, cocaine, meth or heroin in the last 12 months, and 1 percent of Hinckley-Finlayson eighth-graders said they have used those drugs.
• Forty-eight percent of East Central 11th-graders stated they have never had a drink of alcohol other than a few sips, and 60 percent of East Central ninth-graders stated they have not, as compared to 48 percent of 11th-graders statewide and 69.5 percent of ninth-graders statewide.
• For Hinckley-Finlayson 11th-graders, 41 percent said they have never had a drink of alcohol more than a few sips, and 55 percent of ninth-graders said the same.
• Of those students who have had more than just a few sips of alcohol, 15 percent of East Central 11th-graders stated they were 15 years old when they had their first drinks, more than just a few sips. This was the most common age to start from this group surveyed and the same age statewide.
• The most common age for Hinckley-Finlayson 11th-graders was 14 and 15 years old.
For information on other categories surveyed and more extensive results, the reports can be found at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/mss/.