WATCH: OCDE advances drug and alcohol prevention efforts with youth conference

Why does the Orange County Department of Education prioritize drug and alcohol prevention? 

Let’s start with the fact that substances like nicotine and THC disrupt adolescent brain development, affecting learning and memory. Second, many youth turn to drugs for emotional regulation, impacting their mental health. Finally, suspensions and expulsions due to drug-related offenses can knock students off their academic paths and limit future opportunities. 

“That’s the biggest possible derailment to a young person’s educational trajectory,” says Stephan Lambert, OCDE’s prevention coordinator.

To highlight the dangers of substance use among youth, OCDE recently hosted the Rise Above the Influence Youth Conference in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana. The May 3 event brought together various elements of OCDE’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention program in a comprehensive showcase designed to empower students, families and educators.

Along with educational workshops tailored specifically for students, there were sessions for parents and caregivers focused on raising awareness of substance use and providing available prevention strategies. The conference also included a resource fair featuring numerous community-based organizations that partner with OCDE.

OCDE’s program, funded by the OC Health Care Agency’s Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Team — or ADEPT — provides training and technical assistance to school districts and charter schools, focusing on identifying prevention curricula aligned with educational standards, educating parents and families, and implementing substance use intervention programs.

Check out highlights from the group’s conference in the video above.