Newport Prevention Coalition Coordinator Dawn Keys and Pot Plans

NEWPORT – The new coordinator of the Newport Prevention Coalition wants to be a visible part and a force in the community.

“I want people to know who I am when they see me,” Dawn Keys said in a recent interview with The Daily News. “We are here to help and support.

The Newport Prevention Coalition has been involved in various community initiatives for years, yet its mission and purpose may be unknown to some residents. What does the coalition do and what does it represent?

The coalition is non-profit and reports to the Newport County Prevention Coalition.

Is the coalition’s position on abstinence from alcohol complete until a person reaches the legal drinking age of 21?

“Yes,” Keys said.

What about marijuana? Recreational marijuana isn’t legal in Rhode Island, so is the coalition pushing for total abstinence from the drug?

“Yes it is,” Keys said.

After examining the results of a 2020 study of Newport youth (ages 12 to 17, grades 9 to 12 in Newport), the coalition is focusing on preventing alcohol use and marijuana by this demographic (not to say that it does not focus on preventing other types of drug use).

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The study found that 29.8% of those polled in Newport used alcohol and 22.4% used marijuana. Tobacco use reached 4.7% and prescription drug abuse reached 3.2%.

The objective of the coalition is therefore prevention: not to consume alcohol or marijuana during childhood and adolescence. But it also aims to educate young people enough that by age 18 they are more likely to abstain.

“It’s important for them to know what the effects are, beforehand, on their brain (s),” Keys said. “The amount of trauma that alcohol and marijuana can have on a young person’s brain is significant. “

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In addition, there are other negative consequences, such as alcohol-related car accidents.

“People kill their friends,” Keys said. “And you have to face and live with it for the rest of your life.”

The coalition’s stance on marijuana is strong and it will not influence even if recreational marijuana is legalized in the state, Keys said.

“We would probably be in favor of not having a facility in Newport,” she said; keep it out of the community. Keys referred to an article she recently read about the potential negative health effects of edible marijuana products for some people.

“I think a lot of those things are not taken into account,” Keys said.

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The Newport Prevention Coalition plans to set up a drop box at the Newport Police Department for prescription drugs people no longer use, and Keys has touted the creation of a student leadership committee; the students would act as a sort of consultant for the coalition and representatives of their schools.

“Young people know their peers and they will know how to reach them,” Keys said. “If we can get their ideas… work with them and give them that leadership and that ownership… that’s really what we’re looking to do.

The coalition’s newest coordinator wants to educate families and youth, and Keys aspires to forge and strengthen community partnerships for a healthier future.