Burrillville teens invite residents to community ‘Town Hall’ event April 20

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BURRILLVILLE – From helpful information for those struggling with addiction, to interactive discussions on the effects of impaired driving, youth with the Burrillville Prevention Action Coalition have been hard at work for the past several months planning a free – and engaging – community event they hope will offer both education and conversation.

The coalition will hold a “Town Hall,” at Jesse Smith Memorial Library on Wednesday, April 20 from 3 to 7 p.m., giving residents a chance to meet the youth, while providing access to information and resources.

“This is something they’ve been working really hard on,” said BPAC Coordinator Monica Blanchette.

The event will include several presentations, including a PowerPoint put together by some prevention-minded Burrillville High School students, and a rollover simulator brought in by the Rhode Island State Police.

The Burrillville and Glocester Addiction Assistance Programs will have tables offering resources for treatment and recovery; and Dr. John Lawrence, a Burrillville resident and BPAC member who practices in Massachusetts, will have information on the unexpected effects of alcohol and small steps to take in recovery.

“He’s passionate about making sure people are getting the right information from the scientific and medical standpoint,” Blanchette said of Lawrence.

The Blackstone Valley Regional Prevention Coalition will have a table on the topic of social hosting, and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation will share their campaign on, “the ripple effect.”

Another space will honor BPAC’s 2022 Mothers Against Destructive Decisions victim, Amber Pelletier. Each year, coalitions across the state such as Burrillville’s focus education efforts to an individual killed or severally injured in impaired driving crash. Pelletier, who died following a crash in May of 2019, enjoyed candy, so youth will pass out sweet treats wrapped in facts about alcohol.

The Burrillville Police Department will have a table with information on their DUI Honor Patrols, displaying stories of people who were victims in impaired driving accidents. Blanchette noted that many of the people the officers chose to honor with the patrols were known by, or related to them.

Another unique space will offer information on ear acupuncture as a tool to help people in recovery stop cravings. Acupuncturists certified in the practice, including Solitude Health & Wellness Center’s Mandie Ellis, will show guests how it’s done.

“People in recovery use it to help tame cravings,” Blanchette explained.

There will also be information on “Youth Driven,” a statewide youth group focused on safer driving practices started by Becky White, whose mother and best friend died in an impaired driving crash in 1999.

“Our kids have been connected to the program since it began,” Blanchette explained.

It will be one of many elements of the Town Hall event presented by the Burrillville teens themselves, in a larger effort to educate the community via visual displays and discussions on how impaired driving affects everyone. Visitors will have the chance to talk to both high school and middle school students about the effects of alcohol on the brain and body, and watch a presentation created by the youth coalition.

“What we see on TV – with the big parties – all the kids are saying that’s not how it happens here in town,” Blanchette said, noting her teens point out Burrillville kids are far more likely to consume alcohol in a basement while visiting a friend’s house.

“They’ll also be talking about stressors and healthy way to cope,” she said of the youth. “They’ll leave it more as an interactive discussion.”

At 5 p.m., the Harrisville Fire Department will offer a Jaws of Life presentation.

The event comes beside other youth-based activities that have shown members just how much alcohol can affect the Burrillville community. In conjunction with the town’s Earth Day celebration, the coalition has chosen to take part in four cleanups, including one they recently completed on East Avenue. Blanchette said that around 1/3 of the litter collected was empty alcohol containers, including ten full-sized liquor bottles.

“The amount of full-sized bottles is really concerning,” Blanchette said.

Community members are invited to join the kids on additional cleanups scheduled for Saturday, April 15; Sunday, April 24 and Saturday, April 30. For information on times and meetup locations contact Blanchette at mblanchette@Burrillville.org.

On Wednesday, April 20, Blanchette noted, the youth will offer, “an experience for the community to engage with the coalition, and learn a little more about these substances, and how we can better prevent people from substance abuse disorders and help those recovering.”

The program coordinator said around 140 people attended BPAC’s last Town Hall event in April of 2019, which focused on vaping. This time, she said, youth took lead, working alongside their adult counterparts including Lawrence, School Committee member Terri Lacey and Library Director Beth Ullucci.

“Our youth coalition is really starting to take charge of some of these events,” Blanchette said. “It’s all presenters that the kids wanted to create a community-focused, fun experience.”

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