What is Calmer Choice?
Calmer Choice is a community-based 501(c)3 that was founded in 2010 in response to the emotional devastation experienced by high school students and the surrounding community after the tragic deaths of several Barnstable High School students and graduates.
The target population for Calmer Choice programming is youth in grades K-12 in the 15 towns of Cape Cod (Barnstable County). This includes 12 school districts and approximately 25,000 students in grades K-12. Due to a primarily seasonal economy and high cost of living, many of the youth are at risk economically and socially.
In some of Cape Cod’s schools, up to 90% of the students receive free or reduced cost lunches. While high school students are especially vulnerable, students of all ages often struggle with mental, emotional and behavioral issues resulting in poor academics, bullying, violence, stress and depression. In fact, it has become clear that most mental, emotional and behavioral challenges actually begin in childhood. Providing Calmer Choice to elementary students capitalizes on important developmental windows that can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy behaviors, opportunities that can have the potential to improve the health and well-being of an entire generation.
Cape Cod (Barnstable County), Massachusetts has been challenged by a sharp and dramatic increase of losing young people to suicides, opioid overdose and accidental deaths associated with high-risk behaviors:
- According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (2011) suicide rates for 10-24 year olds on Cape Cod are 1.4 times higher than the rest of the state.
- A 2014-2016 Cape Cod Healthcare Community Health Needs Assessment shows that in 2010, addiction treatment admission rates and motor vehicle accident-related hospitalizations for ages 15-24 year olds on Cape Cod were more than double that of the rest of the state.
- In 2010, admissions for opiate treatment for 15-24 year olds overtook admissions for alcohol treatment, and that trend continues. An increase in sexually transmitted diseases is also seen with this age group. The Department’s Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2013) revealed that 22% of high school students reported feeling so sad or depressed daily for at least two weeks during the previous year that they discontinued their usual activities. 13% of the teens reported abusing prescription drugs. 36% reported abusing alcohol within the past year; 19% admitting binge drinking and 7% reported drinking and driving within the last 30 days.
- A 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey in the Sandwich Public Schools revealed that 100 students attempted suicide in the prior 12 months, and over 140 students purposefully harmed themselves. Also, 43% of middle school and 27% of high school students admitted to being bullied on school property in the past 12 months (MA State figures are 36% and 18%, respectively).
Since it was founded in 2010, Calmer Choice has grown to provide a universal/primary prevention program, to more than 6,000 Cape Cod school children in programs held at 18 different schools across 12 separate school districts. This includes the following school districts-- Barnstable Public School District, Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School, Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, Dennis-Yarmouth School District, Falmouth School District, Nauset Regional School District and Monomoy Regional School Systems and Mashpee Public Schools.
Calmer Choice is dedicated to serving the youth of the 15 towns of Cape Cod and is or has collaborated with:
- Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC)
- Nauset Youth Alliance
- Cape Cod Justice for Youth Collaborative
- Falmouth, Sandwich and Yarmouth Substance Abuse Task Forces
- Cape Cod Regional Substance Abuse Prevention Initiative
- The Youth Suicide Prevention Program, a division of the Cape and Islands Suicide Prevention Coalition
- Cape Cod Child Development
- YMCA Cape Cod
- Nauset Together We Can
- Cape Cod Healthcare
- National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI)
- The Waldorf School of Cape Cod
- The Cape & Islands District Attorney Office
- Camp Wingate Kirtland