In Cambridge and across the country, young people are experiencing a mental health crisis that often results in substance use at an early age. This is well documented in our Teen Health Survey and nationally. Our work centers this reality; we develop and implement data-informed programs, policies, and practices that address young people’s challenges from a holistic, cross-sector perspective. From asset mapping to teen surveys, we seek first to understand the root cause, and then convene like-minded collaborators to share both findings and strategies that address them.
Our Core Questions:
- What programs, policies, and practices enable a healthy community, one where substance use is not a common practice among youth?
- How are we building capacity within the community to be well? To openly discuss the issues challenging youth and collaboratively implement solutions to care for them?
- How do we center the voices of young people in this work?
We develop and implement data-informed programs, policies, and practices that address young people’s mental health challenges from a holistic, cross-sector perspective. Our coalition of partners spans students, care givers, and other providers in an effort to cast a trusted net, citywide. The majority of our work is made possible by the MC3 grant from BSAS. On-going and special projects include:
● The First-Ever Youth Wellness Working Group
Composed of various community members, including youth, the group meets on the third Thursday of every month from 3-4pm over Zoom with the goal of preventing and/or reducing misuse of substances of first use among youth in Cambridge.
● Annual Youth Mental Health & Wellness Mini-Grant Awards
We are part of the Cambridge Public Health Department’s Mini-Grant program. Every year, we support Cambridge-based programming that promotes youth mental health and wellness, with a focus on youth ages 12-18.
● Youth Mental Health First Aid Training
Our team is trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid. We provide free trainings to community members citywide, so they are equipped to act and care for a young person in a mental health crisis.
● Community Health Asset Mapping
In 2022, we asked Cambridge adults and youth where they go to school, where they work, and where they spend their free time. We mapped these community assets to tell a story about the important places in young peoples’ lives throughout the city.
● PhotoVoice with Cambridge Community Television
In 2022, the Youth Wellness team collaborated with CCTV’s Youth Media Program to explore the issue of substance use through photography. An exhibition of student work was shown at CCTV and at Cambridge City Hall.
VOICES FROM THE COMMUNITY
“I think they [adults] don’t understand how like… that kids who do it [use substances] are not necessarily bad, but they just need help.”
– High School Student
“No one wants to have those conversations, because either they falsely think that if you start talking about substances, then teens are going to use them, or they’re just uncomfortable and they don’t know how to have those conversations. I don’t know. But the conversations aren’t happening. So we’re just ignoring the problem.”
– Adult Participant
MASSCALL GRANT CYCLE
We are currently in the Strategic Planning phase of the Massachusetts Collaborative for Action, Leadership, and Learning (MassCALL3) grant, focusing on preventing misuse of substances of first use (e.g. alcohol, nicotine, cannabis) among youth.
Read more about MassCall3.
Purpose: Determine the needs and assets around youth substance misuse in Cambridge through focus groups, interviews, surveys, and the Teen and Middle Grades Health Survey. Build local resources and readiness to address prevention needs.
Purpose: Determine our priority areas of focus to co-develop strategies with community partners.
Purpose: Implement and evaluate our proposed strategies.
We are currently looking for representatives, including youth, to serve on our working group. Openings for adult representation include members of the faith community, local business community, healthcare industry, and public school department.
Updated: October 11, 2023