Article published Aug 11, 2015
Survey, accessed online, looks at drug use in Bennington
By Patrick McArdle
BENNINGTON — A local community action group is offering prizes and spreading the word through social media to get people to take a survey on drug abuse in the Bennington area.
The survey can be found online on the alliance’s website at www.actbennington.org/2015-community-survey.
Kiah Morris, executive director of the Alliance for Community Transformations, said the survey was developed by Dr. Nissa Walke, the Vermont Department of Health’s substance abuse prevention coordinator for Bennington.
“It’s designed to try to help us identify, what do adults in the community see as far as issues around drug use. What drugs do they think are most prevalent in the community? How do they feel about youth use? Do they think we have enough supports or are more supports needed for our community? We’re trying to get a read on where people are at,” she said. Morris said there are many people in Bennington who are very knowledgeable about drug abuse in the Bennington area, but ACT is trying to determine how the general community feels about the issue and what they do and don’t know.
“It’s important because it really sets the tone for how we’ll be able to make strategies to make a difference,” she said.
The survey was released on July 12 and responses are due on Aug. 16. It’s intended for adults in the community only but not restricted to just Bennington residents.
According to Morris, there was a similar survey in 2013 but the pattern of drug use in the community and the community itself has changed in the last two years. ACT is offering the opportunity for people who take the survey to win tickets to local music festivals or an out-of-state NASCAR event. Morris said there has also been a push through email to spread the word about the survey and its importance. Morris herself has taken to Facebook asking people to spread the word to other members so that people who follow her on Facebook might bring in their own followers.
Some who have seen the social media efforts have been critical, Morris said. She has seen negative comments about the survey being just another study that won’t lead to any action.
“Once we have that data, other entities that are working in earnest to try to address these issues will be able to be very efficient, focused and prepared to tackle those issues because they’ll know what they’re dealing with,” she said.
Morris also pointed out that the surveys were anonymous and not an attempt to publicly identify any individual person’s opinions on drug use and the drug problem in the Bennington area.
When the surveys are tallied, most likely in the fall, the information will be available to all who want to help groups like Southwestern Vermont Health Care, the Turning Point Club, or Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“This data will be available for anyone to use. It doesn’t belong to ACT. It belongs to the community,” Morris said.
Officials at ACT are considering a townwide meeting in late October or early November where the results of the survey, along with information gathered from focus groups of populations like the faith-based community, law enforcement and the medical community, will be presented.
On its website, ACT defines itself as a “community-based, grassroots collective” working to improve the community’s health. Its mission is to prevent young people from trying drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and to reduce substance abuse by people of all ages in the southern part of Bennington County.
Morris is also a member of the Vermont House of Representatives elected from the town of Bennington.
Morris said she is also working on a paper copy of the survey, which she hopes could be submitted at public places like the town offices, the Bennington Free Library, or the Bennington Recreation Center.