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2019 Substance Misuse Community of Practice Application

Substance Misuse Community of Practice

Park and recreation agencies are no stranger to substance misuse. Most often, these facilities are widely accessible spaces that can provide concealment from law enforcement. Staff are on the front lines and constantly struggle with substance misuse and related paraphernalia on park grounds – including selling of drugs, discarded needles and syringes, overdosing in parks, and even remnants of drugs. Agencies are struggling with the best way to handle these daily challenges to ensure the safety of park users, park staff, those suffering from an addictive disease, and the general public.

While dealing with these challenges in and around facilities, park and recreation agencies also offer protective factors for youth and families and are well-suited to implement prevention strategies that stop the cyclical effects of substance misuse. Agencies provide a safe space for children and young teens to gather outside of school hours and engage in constructive activities. According to NRPA’s 2018 Out-of-School Time Report, nine in 10 P&R agencies offer before, after, and/or summer programs to millions of children in the United States. Benefits of these programs include providing youth with safe places to play outside of school hours, free and/or affordable facilities that promote health/wellness activities, and social opportunities for youth to connect with peers.

Through the Substance Misuse Community of Practice (CoP), two cohorts will be established.

The first being a “prevention” group that will focus on:
  • Professional development/training for P&R professionals serving youth and families to better understand risk factors; using a trauma-informed lens; how to recognize substance misuse issues
  • How to recognize and respond to substance misuse; establishing policies and procedures for OST programs
  • OST programming efforts and related protective factors
  • Community-wide prevention efforts that P&R can join—awareness campaigns, community events, partnership building, etc.
  • Other emerging trends related to substance misuse and parks will be discussed as needed
The second group will focus on “park operation” efforts:
  • Substance misuse in parks and best practices for handling
  • Park maintenance staff safety; needles and syringe cleanup
  • Public health partnerships and referral systems for substance misusers
  • Community-wide efforts and partnerships that P&R agencies can join/form
  • Other emerging trends related to substance misuse and parks will be discussed as needed
Members of each cohort will work together to create a network of support focused on assessing, exploring and establishing partnerships in their communities to leverage community assets that will help them overcome the various challenges faced when addressing substance misuse in parks. Over a period of one year (April 2019-2020) NRPA, a group of agencies and occasional guest speakers will meet virtually to help each agency build internal and external capacity to sustain substance abuse prevention efforts. This is an opportunity for P&R professionals to work collaboratively with other agencies across the country to identify sustainable solutions to the variety of challenges faced by local park and recreation agencies in America.

Goals of the CoP:
  1. Better understand the challenges that park and recreation agencies face around substance misuse
  2. Create a network of agencies to discuss and share operation and prevention efforts surrounding substance misuse in parks
  3. Develop an action plan with steps on how agencies can implement related best practices
  4. Increase the capacity of agencies to implement substance misuse best practices
Objectives of the CoP:
By the end of the Substance Misuse Community of Practice, agencies…
  1. will have at least one other agency that they can connect with and communicate challenges and solutions
  2. will be able to implement and follow best practice guidelines, policies and procedures
  3. will be able to identify partners in the community to overcome barriers related to substance misuse

Please complete the following form to submit your request to join the Community of Practice. You will be notified of your acceptance by May 14.