The Thriving Youth Task Force at the Darien Community Fund set out to make a difference locally. There is no denying the level of alcohol and drug use among Darien’s youth is far too high. Enter the “06820” campaign. Driven entirely by social media and marketing, the campaign shares imagines that invoke teenage binge drinking, as well as the indifferent attitude from some parents. It has been met with such praise that task force director Emily Larkin was asked to speak at a national conference in California.

A press release from the task force offered that the campaign has already had a strong impact “It was impossible not to pay attention when these images showed up in students’ and parents’ Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds, posters in liquor store windows and popular local shops. The campaign materials all directed viewers to www.ourdarien.com – a website providing resources for teens and parents on the impact of alcohol on the teen brain, the consequences of breaking the social hosting law and the important preventive benefits of an ongoing parent-child conversation about underage drinking,” the release reads.

Emily Larkin is the Director of the Thriving Youth Task Force. Larkin spoke about the campaign in Hartford at Connecticut’s Annual Prevention Conference. The program was received so well locally, that Larkin was invited to speak at Annual National Prevention Network Conference. The national conference is attended by over 1,000 prevention professionals from across the country and takes place in Anaheim, California.

Larkin led a session that was special. “Our session focused on in social marketing aimed at reducing underage drinking in affluent communities, so a bit of a niche,” Larkin said. The session led by Larkin was the only one that focused specifically on substance abuse in affluent communities.

“What was interesting was the data shows that substance abuse, and particularly with the opioid crisis, has pockets in affluent communities where it’s really prevalent. For some reason we were the only community represented so it felt great to give a voice to that,” Larkin said.

There were about 150 people who attended the breakoff group led by Larkin. Following her presentation, Larkin took questions from the audience.

“Every hand in the rom was going up. There were people from Silicon Valley saying their problems are the same as Darien, the same from people on the north shore of Boston,” Larkin said.

Larkin said the local response has been outstanding. The students who took part in organizing the campaign, along with the board at the community fund, have been blown away. “They didn’t realize just how unique what we were doing was, so now there’s a lot of excitement for the second round of the campaign.”

Larkin says the second round of the 06820 campaign should roll out in the coming weeks. Further, surveys will be sent out in early November to students and parents to track the impact. The task force has been surveying students and parents for years, and this will be the first since the rollout of the campaign. The results are eagerly anticipated. The task force continues to combat the underrage substance abuse issue in Darien, along with the school administrators working to overhaul the school system’s policies on drug and alcohol use. The effort being collaborative, while also including students and parents in the discussion, is a more comprehensive approach than has been taken in the past.

More info: CommunityFundDarien.org

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