By Kymberly Breckenridge
Illustrated by Tatyana Starikova
When I think of the word cape, I picture a superhero rushing to aid a person in distress, perhaps wrestling a monster or on the verge of falling off a cliff. Which is exactly what the highly trained staff at the award-winning CAPE—the Council on Addiction Prevention & Education of Dutchess County—have been doing for the past 30 years. CAPE staff members are known for their care, compassion and competence while tackling issues of prevention, education, counseling and recovery from the complex brain disease of addiction. The same qualities found… in superheroes.
Children do not come with manuals, and we bumble along figuring out how to feed, clean and teach our youth. But there are issues that arise for which we cannot “fake it till we make it” and must turn to the experts for help with our children’s struggles. The 14-member staff at CAPE, licensed by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, have been trained in evidence-based pro- grams vetted on a state and national level with proven successful outcomes.
It is no secret that substance abuse, on the rise and present in younger and younger grades, is a barrier to student learning. Even more scary is the research that reveals sub- stance use by youth younger than 18 dramatically increases the chance of addiction in adult years. “We are an organism that seeks pleasure,” explains Executive Director Elaine Trumpetto, “but when we introduce substances that rewire the brain, particularly that of an undeveloped brain, it becomes very difficult to change the pathways that control our ability to practice self-care.” As opioid use rises to unprecedented levels, children have easier access to harmful drugs, which, combined with their brains’ inability to cognitively understand long-term consequences, makes for a dangerous situation that demands intervention by the experts at CAPE.
The programs at CAPE vary across demographics, age and institutions. One of their most unique endeavors is the Marathon Project, which pairs at-risk youth in the Poughkeepsie, Hyde Park and Newburgh School Districts, as well as the DC Department of Probation, with adult mentors who help them deal with issues of childhood obesity, gang involvement, school dropout and substance abuse during their weekly runs. While their bodies become stronger, they discover the power of goal setting and positive self-worth as tools in navigating their complicated world.
Project Success, CAPE’s student assistance program, provides counselors in 10 schools throughout four school districts who offer substance abuse prevention education and referral services as well as family communication programs. Their Teen Driving: A Family Affair impact model program brings representatives from the Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office, insurance and medical fields in addition to victims of impaired driving cases to discuss the consequential outcomes of substance abuse. Many local schools require participation in the panel discussion as a prerequisite for obtaining a school parking permit.
In 2014, CAPE was awarded a federal Drug-Free Communities Grant. This grant brings together members of the southern Dutchess towns within the Wappingers Central School District: local businesses and law enforcement; health, faith- based, media and education groups; youth and youth-serving organizations; parents; and government and civic/volunteer groups. This coalition is charged with the tasks of identifying community needs surrounding behavioral health issues, recommending interventions and evaluating their effectiveness. Recognizing the power in numbers, CAPE invites anyone to join this coalition as well as its sister organizations in the Harlem Valley and Northern Dutchess areas. These grassroots partnerships invite community members to be part of the solution to address substance abuse and mental health challenges within their communities.
“We are an organism that seeks pleasure, but when we introduce substances that rewire the brain, particularly that of an undeveloped brain, it becomes very difficult to change the pathways that control our ability to practice self-care,” explains Elaine.
As a nonprofit, CAPE is often forced to curb their ever-widening programs due to lack of adequate resources. You can help our CAPE superheroes by attending their second annual masquerade “Lifting the Mask” ball on October 26, 2016, from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Visit their website at http://capedc.org for more information on the ball, their life-changing programs and upcoming events. There are times in a person’s life when the scope of the problem is too large to handle alone. Thankfully CAPE, an information, referral and resource goldmine, is here to help with issues concerning substance abuse. Let’s work together to help these superheroes save lives and change the destiny of our at-risk youth by preventing and delaying the onset of early use and abuse of substances. █