LEWISTOWN - Mifflin County Communities That Care recently received the results of a youth survey it conducted in late 2011 and, according to Facilitator Nancy Records, some of the results are troubling while others are encouraging.
Records, speaking at Thursday's business meeting of the Mifflin County Commissioners, said the survey polled approximately 1,000 students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades and focused on four particular domains: school, community, family and peers.
"One of the main areas we looked at was drug use, as well as risk and protective factors," Records said. "We track drug use and look for ways to prevent it from occurring. We also looked at what are the risks to engage and what are the positives to protect kids."
Records said one of the survey results that was troubling was a trend toward higher than average use of substances such as tobacco and smokeless tobacco products in the county.
"There was also an indication of higher use of inhalants and prescription pain medication," she added.
On a positive note, Records said the survey indicated a decrease in underage binge drinking.
"(The number of) Students participating in underage drinking was better than a lot of counties," she noted. "However, there is a perception out there that there is more underage drinking going on than what is actually documented."
Records said there also is a high level of concern about students experimenting with drugs.
"However, the majority (of students) are not engaging in these types of activities."
Once the survey results were tabulated, Records said Communities That Care set out to come up with recommendations to implement in an effort to reduce drug use and other problem areas.
"We have a strategic plan now in place on impacting the risk factors," she said. "It helps us prioritize what we can do."
Of the four domains covered in the survey, Records said the one in the schools was quite positive.
"We were pleased to see how the students were reacting in the schools, especially since the merger," she noted.
In the community domain, Records said, "We need to work on more opportunities by providing more student activities and mentor programs, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters. In the near future we are planning a Youth Summer Activities Fair where we will invite organizations to the Lewistown Middle School to showcase what they have available. It will be kind of a one-stop shopping kind of thing."
In the family domain, Records said strengthening needs to occur there as well.
"We need to see a change in some attitudes," she pointed out. "The survey showed a trend where some parents don't see the harm in underage drinking. We need to work harder on changing perceptions and behaviors."
With regard to the smoking issue, Commissioner Mark Sunderland said, "It would be interesting to see data from the late 1960s and 1970s on smoking in the schools. When I went to high school, nearly everybody smoked."
Records said she doesn't have data as far as student smoking but noted that overall the habit has significantly dropped since those days.
"Currently, only 17 percent of adults smoke," she said. "Why kids are picking up the habit is hard to figure because there's so much information out there that says it's not a good idea."
Records said results of the youth survey are available on request by calling (717) 248-3994.
In other CTC news, Records said a recent drug take-back program held in Lewistown drew positive responses.
"We saw a total of 144 pounds of return medications at one site," she reported. "There continues to be a steady stream of people using that."
Records said the next organized drug take-back program will occur on Saturday, April 27.