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Florida Courier: LiveFree! Coalition Celebrates National Prevention Week in St. Pete

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May 12 marks the beginning of National Prevention Week, a week-long national event supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues. The observance is an opportunity to unite the community to promote prevention efforts, educate others about behavioral health issues and create and strengthen community partnerships.

This year’s theme, “Your voice. Your choice. Make a difference,” emphasizes that the prevention of substance abuse and promotion of mental health starts with the choices each of us makes in our own life. Through our choices (and voices), we can set an example of health and well-being for others, raise awareness of behavioral health issues and help create healthier a safer place to live.

To celebrate National Prevention Week, LiveFree! Coalition, a local alliance promoting awareness about the harmful effects of underage drinking, binge drinking, prescription drug abuse, marijuana/synthetic use and other substance abuse among youth and young adults, is promoting expertise and prevention resources in an effort to spotlight problem-solving and life-saving prevention resources in Pinellas County.

A recent community health assessment survey conducted by the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County identified alcohol and drug abuse as the top behavior of concern in the community. Rounding out the top five were: poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, being overweight and smoking.

“Many of these identified issues are 100 percent preventable once we invest in a health and wellness lifestyle and support the prevention system of care in Pinellas County,” said Jackie Griffin, executive director of LiveFree!. We need to continue our advocacy for effective evidence-based programs and environmental strategies infused within our community.  National Prevention Week helps us feature our great solutions and services available to our parents, youth and families. Investing in prevention can truly change our communities for the better.”

Doing its part, LiveFree! is coordinating a week-long opportunity to connect with key community leaders and discuss important topics related to prevention, instilling that prevention is important in all areas of life and not just when it comes to drug and alcohol use.

In addition to uniting key community leaders, the organization is also hosting a prevention week celebration at Childs Park Recreational Center at 4301 13th Ave S, St. Petersburg from 3- 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15. The block party will include a DJ, contests, food, prizes, activity tables and more! Personal Trainer Carlos Morgan will also lead youth participants of all ages in group exercises. The event will be held in partnership with all LiveFree! community clubs. Taking part will be:

  • ·         McLin LiveFree!
  • ·         Starling School and Day Care LiveFree!
  • ·         Sumter Home and Day Care LiveFree!
  • ·         ARTZ4LIFE Academy Club
  • ·         St. James AME Church, Clearwater
  • ·         Northeast High Club
  • ·         Pinellas Park High School and Criminal Justice Academy
  • ·         Dunedin High Club
  • ·         Osceola High Club
  • ·         Largo High Club
  • ·         Largo Middle

Experts available throughout the week (and daily national themes of National Prevention Week to be covered) include:


  • ·         Chris Lewis, Tobacco Free Coalition of Pinellas County and Samantha Staley, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Coordinator of Pinellas County

o   Prevention and Cessation of Tobacco Use (Sunday, May 12            )

  • ·         Jackie Griffin, Executive Director of LiveFree! Coalition

o   Prevention of Underage Drinking (Monday, May 13)

  • ·         Sgt. Dan Zsido, Pinellas Sheriff’s Office and Laurie Serra from NOPE (Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education)

o   Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Use  (Tuesday, May 14)

  • ·         Renee Carter-Gura, Vice President of Juvenile Services at Operation PAR

o   Prevention of Alcohol Abuse (Wednesday, May 15)

  • ·         Maxine Booker, Senior Director of Crisis Services at Personal Enrichment through Mental Health Services

o   Suicide Prevention (Thursday, May 16)

  • ·         Maria Roberts, Senior Director of Children’s Services at Personal Enrichment through Mental Health Services

o   Promotion of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Well-Being (Friday, May 17)

Additional experts available to discuss other important topics related to prevention are:

  • ·         Daphne Miller, Administrator at Operation PAR

o   Healthy Goal Setting and Resources for Adults and Ways Everyone Can Help

o   Childs Park Event in Saint Petersburg on May 15

  • ·         Jackie Griffin, Executive Director of LiveFree! Coalition

o   Building Health and Wellness communities; Synthetic Use, Marijuana Use

  • ·         Laurie Serra, Pinellas Coordinator at NOPE (Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education)

o   NOPE Student Assemblies

  • ·         Robin Saenger, Vice Mayor of Tarpon Springs

o   Peace 4 Tarpon, a project aimed at making Tarpon Springs a trauma-informed community

  • ·         Louise Hamilton, Nutritionist at Great American Natural Products

o   Nutrition

“The best way to make the community a healthier and safer place is to unite its members and discuss the importance of prevention,” added Griffin. “While this is something we strive to do year round at LiveFree!, National Prevention Week serves as the perfect opportunity to remind others to join us in our mission.”

LiveFree! encourages those looking for a way to take part in National Prevention Week to sign and share the “Prevention Pledge” on SAMHSA’s Facebook page to make a difference and commit to a healthy lifestyle.

SAMHSA has also provided a downloadable Toolkit, which provides resources for National Prevention Week 2013 events and year-round prevention efforts.

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