Information is the Best Weapon

Jan. 19-25, 2006
Information is the Best Weapon
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Prevention Network Provides Education About Substance Abuse to the Community

Beth Toomey, a youth minister at St. Margaret’s Church in Mattydale, is dedicated to helping the teens she serves gain the skills and knowledge to make smart decisions regarding substance abuse. As director of the Teen Institute Program at Prevention Network, she is equipped to provide alternatives through involvement in the program. The Teen Institute Program is a peer leadership program for youths in grades 10 through 12 who want to change the attitudes toward and the consumption patterns of alcohol and other drugs among their peers.

Toomey conducts decision-making workshops and team-building activities as she engages the young people in her confirmation classes and youth group in the Teen Institute Program. “I love working with young people, guiding them on the path to be successful in life — both on a spiritual and non-spiritual level,” said Toomey.

Since 1949, the Prevention Network has assisted individuals, families, organizations, schools and businesses by providing helpful information, practical education and anonymous referrals. The agency utilizes research and technology to prevent, intervene or treat alcoholism and other drug dependencies. Prevention Network also works with other organizations in the community for a multi-faceted approach, resulting in a positive outcome. Faith Mary Gault is program coordinator with prevention and treatment experience at Prevention Network. Gault feels that it’s important for youths at confirmation age to receive information about substance abuse. “They are at an age where they’re just beginning to make their own personal decisions,” said Gault. “It’s important for them to have accurate information in order to make assessments about the harmful, long-term impact that these substances can have.”

The Teen Institute has been well received among area young people. “We get tons of e-mails from students who have completed the program,” said Gault. “One student even wrote a letter about Teen Institute in her school newspaper she liked it so much.” Prevention Network offers programs for youths at many different age levels. These programs are usually either scheduled by individual schools or facilitated at specific locations by Prevention Network staff.

Besides the Teen Institute Program, Prevention Network offers the Reality Check Youth Action Project. This program focuses on tobacco control. Approximately 40 teens in the area are now involved in a counter-marketing program against the tobacco industry. The Eckerd Drug Quiz Show is a program designed for seventh and eighth graders throughout Onondaga County. Students participate in a Jeopardy-like quiz show and have the chance to advance with their team to the state playoffs.

The Elks Project provides the “Just Say No” educational programming to third-grade students in the Liverpool School District. Prevention Network also offers educational presentations by their facilitators. The presentations cover many different topics and are tailored to the age and capabilities of the youth involved. Parent-to-Parent is a video and discussion-based program that provides parents with the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to help their children avoid the drug culture.

The Resiliency Training Program, created by Nan Henderson, is a research-based program designed to teach parents, teachers and other interested parties methods for fostering, supporting and encouraging resiliency in young people. Strengthening Families I and II is an evidence-based program that offers support to parents that are chemically addicted while offering life skills education to their children. “I believe that our agency really strives to help people to avoid harmful substances,” said Gault. “We want them to know that we are here to help them make healthy choices.”

For more information about Prevention Network, call (315) 471-1359 or email:

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