DNR announces partnership to inspire parents to have the “drug talk”

Michigan DNR, talksooner.org, and mParks head outdoors to inspire parents to have the `drug talk’ with their kids
 Photo courtesy: Michigan DNR; Lakelands Trail
Photo courtesy: Michigan DNR; Lakelands Trail (WLUC)
Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 6:23 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Monday the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Michigan Recreation & Park Association (mParks) announced a new health/wellness partnership with www.talksooner.org. The collaboration is intended to encourage parents and caregivers to consider the “great outdoors” as a backdrop to forge positive, healthy conversations aimed at youth substance abuse prevention.

“From Michigan’s rustic campgrounds and sandy beaches to its abundant trails and neighborhood parks, today’s families are rediscovering the healing powers of nature, and what a natural fit and setting for parents to have these informal, yet important conversations with their children – tapping the resources of TalkSooner to help jump-start those dialogues,” explained Clay Summers, executive director for mParks.

The joint venture comes at a time when health and wellness/prevention has never been more important, with mParks/DNR stepping up programming and services created to encourage stronger, healthier communities.

“Visits to our parks have skyrocketed during COVID, and we see this trend – as well as strong enrollment in our recreation programs and services – continuing throughout 2021, so want to be that health and wellness bridge for families, creating awareness about TalkSooner’s free prevention resources to anyone that may be interested,” added Maia Turek, DNR resource development specialist.

Stephanie VanDerKooi, a substance use disorder director for the Lakeshore Regional Entity, which powers TalkSooner, acknowledged that the talk can be uncomfortable, but added that the setting can make it easier.

“There’s never a good time to have conversations about uncomfortable topics with our kids, but there’s something very encouraging about nature that make these talks more open-ended and informal versus the formal lectures of generations past.”

With Wi-Fi now available throughout many state and county parks, it is easy for parents and caregivers to download the TalkSooner app or hop onto the website, which is translatable into Spanish, to gather talking tips or pointers to include as part of their recreation plans.

According to VanDerKooi, while the full impact of teen drug use during COVID-19 has not been measured, all signs suggested increased use, spurred by social isolation, heightened anxiety and more.

“We know parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all can play an important role in a child’s healthy development, so arming them with free resources to navigate these conversations helps in building a village of support,” said VanDerKooi.

“There’s something special about campfire conversations or hiking chats that feels natural and organic, and an ideal place and time with less distractions to forge these important conversations,” said Turek. “We think it’s a natural fit.”

Over the summer, TalkSooner will provide bilingual wallet cards and bathroom mirror clings for the DNR to place at select camper registration sites.

No DNR and mParks funds were used for any part of the promotion.

Copyright 2021 WILX. All rights reserved.

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