There may be evidence students in the are using drugs and alcohol less than their peers. But that doesn't mean there isn't a longstanding community group ready to give them a "LYFT" if they need it.
LYFT is a community prevention coalition dedicated to reducing substance use and encouraging positive decision-making among the youth of Lower Makefield Township, Yardley Borough, Falls Township and Tullytown Borough. Affiliated with The United Way, it was founded in 1995 and is still going strong.
“There are now over 248 people who participate at various levels over the course of the year,” said Tim Philpot, the group's community outreach director.
LYFT has an executive board whose membership includes Pennsbury Board of Education member Gary Sanderson, Chief William Wilcox and Officer Mike Wolverton, and Falls Parks and Recreation director Bill Reese.
There also is a youth board with seven members.
“They plan and implement their own prevention activities,” said Philpot.
Underage drinking is the main concern of LYFT.
“It's the most widespread substance abuse,” Philpot said.
“Our next biggest concern is the misuse of prescription drugs, which has skyrocketed nationally in the last ten years. Kids are getting into their grandparents' medicine cabinets and they're buying prescription drugs online from offshore pharmacies. They're buying trading and selling them in and out of school.”
Philpot says there is evidence, including local court records, indicating the Pennsbury district is below the state and national average in terms of substance abuse.
“That's the good news: we have seen some decreases over the last five year, which we believe are related to the efforts of LYFT,” he said.
Partnering with law enforcement, the district and the four municipalities that send students to the district, LYFT provides “healthy outlets” for students.
For example, a drug- and alcohol-free dance, proposed by students is being planned for October. In addition, this school year LYFT will continue providing Z Period, an after-school program that runs for six weeks.
“It's two hours of time for kids to take part in healthy activies during latchkey hours,” Philpot said.
Other upcoming LIFT activities include:
- taking part in freshman orientation at Pennsbury High School on Sept. 4;
- providing information to the public on substance use prevention at Yardley Harvest Day on Sept 22; and
- participating in the countywide Prescription Drug Take Back Day Sept. 29.
“It really is a synergistic effort of all these different sectors of community – business, faith leaders, students, parents and politicians – to make something greater than the sum of its parts,” Philpot said.