Cabot Coalition Strives For Drug-Free Community
Anyone arriving in Cabot for the first time might notice the strong and visible anti-drug messages posted throughout the town, including the parks, town offices, and the local school.
As a recipient of federal and state funding aimed at drug prevention for the past 10 years, totaling more than $1 million, Cabot has become a model community for how it addresses youth substance abuse.
"Cabot is a small town, so if a young person has an incident in the town involving drugs or alcohol, by the next day, it seems half the town knows about it and knows we are going to respond and help," said Lori Augustyniak, coordinator of the Cabot Coalition. "That young person needs to know that their actions affect many more people than just themselves. We work very closely with the school and provide ongoing outreach and education. And we also continue to build as many connections as possible between the young people and the adults in town."
Cabot received $60,000 per year for the past eight years from the federal Drug Free Communities (DFC) program. DFC supports over 700 drug-free community coalitions nationwide. Nine Vermont communities first received DFC grant funds totaling $673,291 in 2004. There are currently 15 Vermont communities now receiving the funds, including two new grantees (Milton Community Youth Coalition, and Central Vermont New Directions) in the 2008-2009 grant cycle. The funding strengthens the ability of communities to identify and respond to local substance abuse problems.
The Cabot Coalition has a diverse strategic plan to address youth substance abuse including spearheading revisions to the Cabot School's alcohol and drug policy, leading the creation of a restorative process for students who violate the policy, and creating a strong mentoring program that pairs youth with positive role models. The coalition collaborates with Cabot School to bring public speakers to address students, and includes strong prevention messages as part of the driver's education program. The Cabot School also insists that student athletes be held to a high standard of conduct and behavior.
The coalition also started a monthly community newspaper, The Cabot Chronicle, available to all 1,200 residents. The first issue was published in March 2008 and is designed to build stronger ties in the community and occasionally forward drug prevention and education messaging that promotes healthy lifestyles.
Augustyniak is continually impressed with the dedication of the hundreds of community volunteers who have contributed to the coalition's efforts since the coalition formed 10 years ago.
During the summer, she hosted a training session for educators about drug abuse prevention, and — despite being on summer break — 12 teachers from the Cabot School attended.
"They came voluntarily," Augustiniak said. "I think that says a lot about how people here want to work out an alternative way of dealing with unhealthy behavior. We recognize in Cabot that suspending a kid from school for three days for violating school policy is not the most effective way to deal with the problem. We want to work cooperatively with the student to solve the problem for the long-term and help promote healthy behavior."