As parents, it sometimes feels like it’s getting harder and harder to reach youth, especially when we fear something is wrong. If you think your youth or a youth you know is battling substance abuse or other self-harming behaviors, it can be scary. You may not know how to help or what to do. Tumwater HOPES (Healthy Opportunities for Prevention, Empowerment, and Success) Coalition is working towards reducing these harmful actions in teens. Get to know the Tumwater HOPES Coalition and how you can help.
Janine Koffel, Tumwater HOPES Coalition coordinator, Thurston County Public Health & Social Services: Tumwater HOPES was established through collaboration of Thurston County Public Health & Social Services with Tumwater School District and other partners in 2019 as a grassroots coalition committed to reducing teen substance use and other youth self-harm behaviors by strengthening protective or positive community factors in those behaviors. Funded by the Washington State Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative (CPWI), with health department support in the form of a coalition coordinator, Tumwater HOPES is comprised of 12 different community sector representatives reflecting the variety of stakeholders in the health and well-being of Tumwater children, youth, and families. Communities supported by CPWI demonstrate high levels of teen use of alcohol, cannabis, or opioids, coupled with community factors that increase risk like levels of employment, academic success, and family function.
The coalition reflects a community-education partnership with the Tumwater School District and includes school-based identification and referral services and a middle school prevention group provided by Educational Service District 113’s True North behavioral health program.
What Does Tumwater HOPES Do?
Koffel: Tumwater HOPES utilizes evidence-based direct service programs for parents—Guiding Good Choices—elementary aged children—Positive Action—and middle school students—SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness. Mentoring is another important component of the coalition’s prevention efforts. The Good Behavior Game is a classroom management evidence-based program that has also been supported by Tumwater HOPES. A youth coalition, Thurston Hopes 4 Everyone Everywhere (THEE) Club, provides youth opportunities to develop public speaking, research, critical thinking, event planning, and advocacy skills. Public awareness, about things like where to dispose of medicines safely, and policy development to reduce access and availability of alcohol and cannabis are key elements rounding out the coalition’s comprehensive action plan, which is informed by the biannual Healthy Youth Survey, an annual Tumwater community survey, and other data sources to provide a more complete picture of the gaps and opportunities for promoting health and wellness.
What’s one thing everyone can do to help prevent substance abuse in youth? Whether they have kids or not.
Koffel: Connection is prevention. Be engaged with children and youth, demonstrate interest in their hobbies and lives. Talk with them about their successes and their struggles. Listen for ways to support and encourage confidence and competence. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the Talk. They Hear You resource. The tips are not exclusive to parents. Anyone can be an advocate for youth and a mentor. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington is a valued coalition stakeholder and more adult mentors, especially men, are always welcome.
What should someone do if they suspect a youth is suffering from mental illness?
Koffel: Active listening to their concerns and struggles is important. There are multiple resources to keep on hand including the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 800.273.8255 and Teen Link at 866.833.6546, which features trained peer volunteers willing to talk through tough times. Tumwater HOPES also can help connect you with a Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) free two-hour suicide prevention training (for people 16 years and older) through the county health department or another coalition stakeholder, Family Education and Social Services. The Tumwater HOPES website has a variety of resources as well.
How can people get involved in the Coalition?
Keitha Bryson: Send an email to Janine! She can invite you to the monthly meetings. Volunteer to mentor students through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Attend events for the youth group and the Coalition.
Koffel: In addition to what Keitha shared previously, the coalition offers volunteers a wide variety of ways to promote teen health and well-being. There are opportunities to volunteer for one-time events, special projects for a specific period of time, or ongoing engagement by attending coalition meetings and working on long-range initiatives. In-person and virtual meetings offer the greatest flexibility to accommodate busy schedules. Business partners are also invited to get involved by sponsoring special events, youth training, and parenting workshops. Anyone with an interest in developing their social media marketing portfolio would be especially useful to expand the coalition’s influence through social media.
Does Tumwater HOPES have any needs?
Koffel: Tumwater HOPES needs additional representation from several important sectors including media, businesses, and communities of faith. More parents and teen members are always welcome. Sponsorship of meals or door prizes for a 6 session parenting series would help increase parent engagement. Media airtime or ad space would support our public awareness campaigns.
Tumwater HOPES is working hard to provide all youth with a road that leads to a brighter future. And you can help. For more information or to get involved contact Janine Koffel at 360.490.9874 or Janine.Koffel@co.thurston.wa.us.