Richland County Youth Substance Use Coalition

Richland County Youth Substance Use Coalition Helps Fill Long Summer Days

MANSFIELD — Think there is nothing to do in Richland County over the summer? Well, look no further than the Richland County Youth Substance Use Coalition.

As part of the nationwide Drug Free Communities (DFC) Program, the coalition is made up of community members who work to plan and organize events to encourage the reduction of substance use among youth.

Crystal Weese chairs the coalition and works closely with Gurpinder Deol, a health educator for Richland Public Health. Together, with around 45 coalition members, Weese and Deol want to be an all-inclusive resource for community members to find fun and educational events and activities.

“We like the concept of being a one-stop shop almost,” Weese said. “Although we are drug-free treatment, prevention is everything, so … we might be noted for like drug-free treatment, but we want to have information on suicide awareness for families and children of those ages.

“We want that to overlap into like treatment that can be for adult parenting.”

The schedule of events has already started and includes a variety of activities tailored to all ages. Along with the schedule, information on events can also be found on the coalition’s websiteFacebook and a monthly newsletter anyone can register for.

Deol explained that compiling information all in one place can increase participation and awareness of events that might otherwise go unnoticed.

“A lot of times you hear things like ‘Oh, there’s nothing to do here,’ ” Deol said.

“It’s like, well, actually, there are quite a bit of things to do, it’s just that people aren’t aware of it. So, one of our main goals was, hey, let’s put this together in one place so people know what’s going on.”

With a variety of activities listed including theater and art camps, meals, storytelling sessions and youth mentoring programs. Deol said his biggest hope for the community to recognize the abundance of fun and interesting events around town that do not involve alcohol, drugs or any other substance.

Deol also compiled a list of activities last year, but has expanded the number of programs for this summer. Two focuses of the list are affordability and proximity, which Deol said he works to consider so all community members have equal access to activities.

To continue to expand the list of programs Deol explained that the more involvement and members the better.

“We’re always, always looking for new people,” Deol said.

“At the end of the day, (we’re) just a group of different people from various organizations around the community … but that only works when we all work together. So the more partners that we can get, people with different perspectives, people with different resources, that’s the best way to do it.”

Weese laughed as she said how Deol can attest to her passion for collaboration. Weese has found the more people involved, the more resources, venues and ideas come along with them.

“I’m quick to partner with something that somebody else is doing, and join right in on that because it helps tremendously,” Weese said.

“A coalition can’t get too large … Anyone reading this article that would like to join, add information, or help us assist with programs that they think this would partner well with, or any other activities be added – we’d love to hear those ideas.”