Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Somerville Public Library’s three branches host drug education events this month and next. (Photo: openneighborhood via Flickr)

After an online program on kids’ substance abuse drew nearly 400 participants last year, the City of Somerville is running in-person events at libraries in February and March – Let’s Talk, a training for caregivers on how to talk to children and teenagers about substance use; and distribution days for Narcan, which delivers an antidote for overdoses, and other safety supplies.

Let’s Talk, which began as an online program during the pandemic, moved into the “real-world” format for a small group of parents Tuesday at the Central Library. The next event is 6:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at the East Branch, 115 Broadway.

Lily Dolyak, the city’s substance misuse prevention coordinator, said the goal of the training is to “provide information on substances we’re seeing in the community and we talk about some Somerville youth trends.”

There’s good news in a lack of evidence opioids are being used in schools. “I hear about it from kids about parents or older siblings, but I have not seen it,” said Kristen Stelis, the Somerville Public Schools’ substance use prevention and intervention specialist.

Data bears that out: In a 2021-2022 anonymous survey of Somerville High School students asked about their substance use in the past 30 days, 14 percent reported alcohol use, 11 percent reported marijuana use and 10 percent reported e-cigerette or vape use.

Stelis said she also sees students who “overdose” and require medical intervention coming back positive for marijuana, meaning they had what is referred to as a “green out” – often from consuming too much of an edible.

Still, high participation at the online Let’s Talk last year encouraged Dolyak to bring it to more intimate settings at the library. (She will still offer online Let’s Talk events, and has YouTube versions of her trainings as well.) With Stelis, she presents a way for caregivers and parents to talk to kids based on what they see in the community, schools and from data collected by surveys from middle- and high school students.

“That can help caregivers talk with youth on actual information instead of just some blanket statement,” Dolyak said.

“The fact that we had such a large number [at the virtual event] reinforced the need for it,” she said. “We really didn’t know what to expect. Then the first one exceeded our expectations.”

Dolyak and Stelis encourage caregivers to understand the language teens and children use for substances and to be open and honest with them. That’s why they include role-playing in the Let’s Talk trainings. “Young people are going to so many places for information – TikTok being a major one – and we want to assert ourselves as a resource for young people,” Dolyak said.

“We can’t keep putting Band-Aids on things where we’re going to look back in 20 years and realize it’s not working,” Stilis said.

Coming events

Another Let’s Talk training is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 13 at the library’s West Branch, 40 College Ave., near Davis Square.

Somerville Prevention Services and other organizations have scheduled three days to distribute Narcan, fentanyl test strips, face shields for rescue breathing, Covid tests and other preventative supplies. Narcan distribution days are scheduled for:

The Narcan and prevention supply distribution is free, open to the public and will distribute while supplies lasts.