After a spate of incidents involving teenagers, drugs and alcohol, a community forum is scheduled for May 20 on the Aspen schools campus to share the concerns of parents and youth, who will be able to hear input from counselors, juvenile investigators, an emergency room doctor and other health professionals.
The incidents have included allegations of sexual assault involving alcohol and marijuana, cocaine allegedly freely provided during a party that teens attended at a local home, and the theft of alcohol from an Aspen hotel by underage residents.
The symposium, “Helping Our Teens Through Family and Community,” is to take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Aspen District Theater. Aspen Connect, the Aspen Buddy Program, Mountain Family Health Centers and Callie’s Backyard Foundation are partners in the event, which is free for ages 13 to 21. Tickets for adults are $15 ($20 at the door).
“Knowing that there have been many conversations occurring throughout the valley addressing the health of our teens, I felt the need to bring the entire valley together in one place to hear the stories of teens, parents and prevention specialists,” said Jillian Livingston, a mother of three teens and the founder of Aspen Connect.
The goal of the forum, which will consist of two main conversations, is to get “a clearer perspective on the issues teens are facing today in our valley, and how we may best as a community become that village and help them to thrive,” she said in an email.
Parents and teens will be able to share stories on anxiety, depression, addiction, and rehab and recovery, “shedding light on the health issues our teens face today and what to watch for in the family,” Livingston said.
Lindsay Lofaro, executive director of the Buddy Program, said Aspen has always been a community that aims for the well-being of families and children.
“But recent events have elevated this closer to the forefront of everyone’s minds,” she said.
Dr. Ben Peery, a critical care specialist at Valley View Hospital, will discuss what he is seeing in the emergency room with teens; Sonja Linman, a prevention specialist at Glenwood Springs Middle School, will speak about building protective factors to counteract substance abuse and other health risks for teens; and Jamie Blume, founder of Along Their Way, and her 19-year-old son, Eli, “will empower us on working together better as a family unit,” Livingston said. “Through his story on anxiety and depression, Eli will teach us how to have more compassion for ourselves and the importance of developing a skill set to cope when struggling.”
Katherine Sand, Aspen Family Connections director, will provide information about resources and outlets for parents, and Catherine Adams, a photographer and founder of Aperture of Hope, along with her daughter, Ashley, 14, are to speak about “how children can feel as though they have no one,” Livingston said.
Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said that he is slated to address drug use and lifestyle issues, though he deferred to his deputy, Cameron Daniel, who is also a certified addiction counselor and was a case manager for kids in the juvenile court system.
Daniel said he expects the forum to include a “broad conversation” on the types of trends law enforcement is seeing.
“I can provide an angle from working alongside families and with kids,” he said. “As an addiction counselor, you see it from one angle, and with law enforcement you see it from another. Just in general, I think [the symposium] is helpful.”
There are so many nonprofit organizations in the valley “that are willing to help, but not everyone knows how to get plugged into those,” he said. “So anytime there can be an event like this, where you can get a few of the players in one spot, I think it’s helpful.”
How acute substance abuse issues are among the valley’s youth is “really [dependent on] what parents and kids say,” Daniel said. “If you want engagement from kids, adults need to shut up” and listen.
Tickets are available at www.eventbrite.com/e/helping-our-teens-through-family-and-community-tickets-59743307842
For more information on the forum, call Livingston at 379-3864 or email email@example.com.