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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Evaluation: CHILL has helped area

Monday, December 2, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The CHILL youth task force has contributed to a decline in the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs among area teenagers over the past decade, according to a recent evaluation of the group, other data and CHILL officials.

CHILL stands for Communities Helping Improve Local Lives, and HEY! (Helping Empower Youth) is an adult coalition that supports and partners with CHILL.

Katie Connelly, community organizer for prevention for Piedmont Community Services (PCS) and coordinator of CHILL/HEY; Bonnie Favero, prevention manager at PCS; and Donna Brock of Roanoke, who recently evaluated the CHILL program, spoke at the 26th Annual National Prevention Network conference in August in Oklahoma City.

The presentation focused on the evaluation of the CHILL program, which was formed in Martinsville and Henry County in 2002.

The evaluation was based on different types of data, including input from three focus groups made up of nine active CHILL members, 13 parents of CHILL members and seven HEY members. Other data came from surveys of CHILL members.

The combination of data suggested that CHILL members “overwhelmingly make positive ATOD choices (ATOD stands for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs) and they attribute these choices to their participation in CHILL, and specifically to the protective factors of being in a group of people with like values, the sense of belonging developed among members, ATOD education, and the empowerment gained through civic engagement,” according to the evaluation.

In addition to the surveys given to CHILL members, Favero said Pride surveys (behavioral surveys given to students in schools) showed that locally, past 30-day use of alcohol reported by seventh-graders declined from 12.8 percent in 2001 (the year before CHILL began) to 3.8 percent in 2011, and among 10th-graders, it fell from 40.4 percent in 2001 to 20.9 percent in 2011.

Pride surveys also showed that in 2001, 58.3 percent of seventh-graders said beer was fairly or very easy to get, 56 percent of seventh-graders said that wine coolers were fairly or very easy to get, and 44.6 percent of seventh-graders said liquor was fairly or very easy to get. In 2011, 14.8 percent of seventh-graders said any type of alcohol was fairly or very easy to get.

Favero also mentioned data showing that the number of juveniles arrested locally for alcohol-related crimes declined from 25 in 2001 to zero in 2011, and that alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents for all ages declined from 131 in 2001 to 77 in 2011. She also said that the average age a child first experimented with drinking (called onset) increased from 10 in 2001 to 13 in 2011.

Favero and Connelly said they believe CHILL’s work over the years was a contributing factor or largely responsible for those declines.

The evaluation identified several ways in which CHILL helps its members make good decisions. It included quotes from unidentified survey participants.

A former CHILL member and HEY coalition member said: “...One of the reasons I wanted to (be in CHILL) is because I felt ... there were other kids making right choices. ... it’s like we’re together, we’re leaders in our school, and we’re all making the right choices, and we’re hoping to be positive influences ... .”

The evaluation stated that “CHILL normalizes ATOD abstinence and makes members feel like they are not alone,” protecting them against factors that glamorize and make ATODs accessible and acceptable.

Parents also valued the sense of belonging CHILL gives their children. A CHILL parent said: “... their CHILL friends (are seen) ... as family. (As a) ... family ... they have to protect each other, and they (would ) be very, very, very upset if one of their CHILL member family was not representing them in the right way.”

CHILL members’ expectations of each other “may work to protect them from bad choices and to protect the good name of CHILL,” the evaluation stated.

Educating students in fun ways about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and drugs also was identified as something that may help students resist the pressure to use with their peers.

According to the evaluation, the ATOD education was presented in a way that “really opened their (CHILL members’) eyes and made them think.”

The evaluation said CHILL’s emphasis on civic engagement “encourages and builds leadership skills and develops a broader connection with their communities. ... CHILL members are empowered to act and believe they can make a difference.” It added that when the community values teens as an asset, that helps protect them from making bad choices.

The evaluation also found CHILL members “tend overwhelmingly” to abstain from alcohol, tobacco or other drug use, even those who have some history of use. No evidence of habitual use among CHILL members was found. Onset of ATOD use “is minimal and generally looks like a one-time lapse of judgment rather than an abuse problem or even the beginning of habitual use,” the evaluation stated.

Evaluation procedures included a combination of qualitative (relating to qualities) data and quantitative (relating to numbers or measurements) data. Qualitative findings were from three focus groups, and quantitative findings were based on the pre- and post-test surveys given to CHILL members.


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