Power of Putnam Raises Awareness Through Surveys At Middle School Games

Story and Photos by Rusty Ellis

While some quality basketball was being played on the court on Thursday night at Prescott South Middle School, some quality community work was being done off it by Power of Putnam.

Just off to the side of the home bench, they were set up to hand out surveys for parents in hopes to raise awareness and hear thoughts from the community as far as what they believed was important regarding substance abuse.

“We’re supporting awareness for substance abuse in Putnam County,” said Ryan F. P. Robertson, a state opioid response coordinator. “We have conversation jars that are meant to help parents more to talk to their children about the effects and risks of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and things like that.”

Robertson works for the Soar 2 Grant, which is the state’s opioid response regarding stimulants. In exchange for taking the survey and helping to increase awareness, parents could enter their children for an opportunity to win cash and other prizes in a wind tunnel Power of Putnam brought with them to the school.

And they don’t plan on doing this with just one school, but all the middle schools.

“We’re trying to collect responses from parents to better understand the needs in our local communities,” said Dr. Tony Michael, the lead Epidemiologist for the grant and a professor at Tennessee Tech. “We’re going around to every school to try to get responses from parents to get their thoughts on the conditions of their local area.”

One of the things important to Michael is making people fully aware of what’s going on in their community, and in turn it can be taught to the youngest generation.

“One of the key components is we have this data that is collected state-wide, and can even be utilized in every school within Putnam County, but we haven’t had as much in terms of information and research on the parent’s side,” Michael said. “There’s sometime a disconnect where parents assume they know everything their child has done. So a little bit is that just by taking this survey, it brings awareness that shows there’s conversation that needs to happen.”

And that’s just the beginning, as Michael points out that a major key to all of this is that it isn’t simply a one-time conversation. It’s a constant dialogue.

“It’s not like you have a one-time conversation,” Michael said. “It’s that we talk to them in sixth grade about not using drugs, but it’s more about being mindful about having repeated conversations.”

And for people like Robertson, beginning a discussion with children at a young age is something that is imperative to prevent substance addiction and abuse.

“I would say it’s very important,” Robertson said. “It always starts from when you’re a child to how it’s going to affect you when you get older. It’s definitely something that should be implemented when you are young.”