The final speaker at the Dangers of Fentanyl and Substance Abuse Panel was Becca Barnhardt, Prevention and Policy Specialist with the El Paso County Department of Health and Community Mobilizer for Fountain Valley Communities That Care (CTC), who brought hope to a bleak subject.

Becca Barnhardt EPCDH
Courtesy: Dangers of Fentanyl and Substance Abuse Panel

“We are a community-led coalition and we work to reduce youth substance use and we create safe spaces for young people,” Barnhardt said. “We do this through a five-phase change process. This process uses an evidence-based, shared risk and protective factor approach to promote healthy youth development, improve youth outcomes, and reduce problem behaviors such as substance use.”

Barnhardt explained that risk factors are the factors that increase the likelihood of someone joining in risky behaviors like substance use. She listed some risk factors including “perceived availability of substances, low commitment to school, early initiation of substance use, and poor family communication around substance use.”

Protective factors reduce the impact of the risk factors, according to Barnhardt. Those include: having a trusted adult to confide in, having clear rules regarding substance use, commitment to academics, and opportunities for positive social involvement.

“Having opportunities for young people to participate in meaningful activities with family and the community,” Barnhardt said of social involvement.

“We have young people. We have parents, youth-serving organizations, religious affiliations, local public health professionals, health care professionals, D8 and D3 representatives, and the list goes on,” she said about who was involved in their community-led coalition.

Fountain Valley CTC practices primary prevention, which is identifying and reducing risk factors and promoting protective factors before the problem becomes a problem. One example of this is the drug take-back day, which minimizes the chance of substance abuse.

Another initiative Barnhardt talked about was the lockbox campaign which targets current prescription drug use. The lockboxes will be available at Security Public Library and Pikes Peak Library District Fountain branch, and are a safe way to store prescription medicines, while also keeping them out of the wrong hands.

“Allow me to take this time to share an uplifting statistic that is very real: 81.2% of high-school-aged students in El Paso County reported never using prescription medications, not prescribed to them, in their lifetime,” Barnhardt shared.