Bringing drug use prevention strategies home to the tri-town

Nov 28, 2018

For tri-town nurse and nursing student Sarah Holbrook, developing a course on how parents can prevent teenage drug use has taught her a lot as a student, but it has also taught her just as much as a parent.

“It’s going to benefit my community, but maybe benefit me as well,” Holbrook said, adding that parents realize that they have power over their children, but “I don’t think we realize how much we can help them.”

Her “Adolescent Substance Use Prevention” course came about as part of a year-long capstone project for the Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree she is pursuing at UMass Dartmouth. Drug use came up as a topic because it is widely relevant.

“We’re in the midst of an opioid crisis. It’s still here whether we want to accept it and realize that it is or not,” Holbrook stated. 

Though Holbrook lives in the tri-town, working with Marion Public Health Nurse, Kathy Downey, also influenced the direction of her project, and helped set some of its tri-town focus.

Holbrook developed her program by adapting a series of seven 90 minute sessions from Botvin Life Skills, an evidence-based methodology that has been around for 20 years. However she quickly realized that she would have to make some changes to that program to accommodate parent schedules.

“As I parent of three I was like ‘how can I ask people to do this?’” Holbrook explained.

So she got trained in how to implement Botvin Life Skills (which ORR also uses with students), then condensed the course into three two-hour sessions by focusing in on parental communication and monitoring.

Ultimately, Holbrook hopes the course “will be empower parents to be more comfortable to start the dialogue. There’s such a stigma against substance use, but they’re not bad kids, they just went off the path.”

After developing the course, she had to get the word out so parents would participate. 

“People come to me and say, ‘but my child doesn’t have a substance use problem.’” Holbrook explained. “I can’t stress enough that it’s a wholly preventative course, though these skills could be used with adolescents who have started substance use.”

To accommodate busy parent schedules, Holbrook has already started two in-person classes, as well as an option for a self-paced version of her course.

“I was nervous to start,” she said, “but it was really relieving and humbling” when it went well.

She says the goal of her classes is to “not to tell people how to parent, but to support them.” To that end, the classes are not lecture-based, but more discussion-based and interactive.

Holbrook is still seeking participants for a second round of the in-person courses after the New Year. Her day session classes will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting on Jan. 10. Similar night session classes will start Jan 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

She explained that if parents visit her website and decide not to participate, it would be helpful to her and future nurses who might study the issue in the tri-town if they could explain why they decided not to take the course in the “opt-out feedback” section of the site.