The territory’s Edibles Taskforce has partnered with the CDC Foundation and U.S. Virgin Islands High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area officials to present a series of workshops titled “Positive Vibes Alone.”
The program offers comprehensive education to students on substance misuse, with an emphasis on decision-making, self-efficacy, and refusal skills.
A joint effort between the V.I. Education, Police, and Health departments, and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, the Edibles Taskforce was established in May to combat the rise in the consumption of marijuana-laced food and beverage products among teens.
At the time the task force was formed, the VIPD was investigating six known cases of students who had overdosed due to edibles consumption and possession in the territory. “The severity of this issue is unknown as it is believed some student illnesses went unreported by parents,” Lt. Claudius Hippolyte, commander of the VIPD’s School Security Bureau for the St. Thomas/St. John District, said at the time.
To date, the workshops have been presented to more than 6,000 students attending the territory’s public junior high and high schools, the release stated. They were held in the St. Croix District Aug. 22-24; in the St. Thomas-St. John District Oct. 24-31; and in January, will be presented to students attending the department’s Virtual Academy Pilot Program.
According to lead presenter Amulen Wirsiy, public health analyst with the CDC Foundation, the workshops were based on findings from the 2017 USVI Youth Behavior Risk Survey.
“Our program utilizes relevant research to teach the youth of our community about the long- and short-term health impacts of substance misuse and abuse in an engaging way to meet our students where they are,” she said. “We seek to prevent substance abuse, prolong the onset of the initiation of use, and emphasize healthy decisions. Hopefully, lessons learned in our program will prove to be useful in more than one realm of our students’ lives.”
She continued, “For generations, substance misuse and abuse has been seen as a morality issue when, in fact, it has a biological and behavioral explanation. Given the collective changes in society and the consideration of our community’s relationship with substances, it is imperative to educate youth on making and maintaining healthy decisions and boundaries as they navigate life.”
Other presenters included Rodney Querrad of the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, along with representatives from the V.I. National Guard, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Marshal Service, the VIPD, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Bringing awareness to the forefront as a team ensures that we provide all available resources to our community as we combat this trend,” said VIPD Acting Commissioner Jason Marsh. “Early and constant education to our students and community about the effects of edibles and various types of drugs is an investment into not only the individuals but also the future of our home.”
Assistant Education Commissioner Victor Somme III praised the effort.
“We have been pleased to work closely with our partners in the Edibles Taskforce to help educate our students and community about the dangers of edibles and other illicit drug use,” he said. “Our outreach has taken us across the territory, and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure our students and families are well-equipped with the knowledge they need to be safe.”
Additional educational workshops on edibles will be held throughout the community in the coming months and a series of informational radio and social media ads are set for release, according to the Education Department.