“It doesn’t matter if it’s weed, alcohol, pills, or cigarettes; if it makes you change who you are and how you act, it’s a drug that can be misused.”

Teen HYPE Youth Advisory Council Member

By: Sarah Osen

Marijuana can be a sticky subject. Opening dialogue about using marijuana has been tricky. The time has come for our community to roll it all out on the table. Let’s be real. Promoting a “just don’t do it” message won’t do. You saw how Detroit voted last November; the political landscape is changing, effecting our social norms. With those changes, how do we tailor youth messaging to continue developing Detroit’s future leaders? To prevent marijuana misuse, we need to consider the underlying problems that cause it. To do that, Teen HYPE has launched a community-wide effort that teaches youth critical thinking skills in decision-making processes, promotes their ability to define individual beliefs and develops their refusal-skills to promote risk-avoidance.

Igniting 4/20/2019, Teen HYPE’s #SlowYourRoll social media campaign will spread awareness about the trauma that fuels youth’s marijuana misuse in our community, their choices that are affected by using it and the associated consequences. Working with Kenny Neal Shults, Principal Consultant and President of Connected Health Solutions, Inc. Teen HYPE’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) created a PSA video that will launch on Teen HYPE’s Youtube Channel. Accurately conveying young people’s feelings about marijuana in our community, this PSA appeals in a way that is fact-based, not fear-based. It shows youth’s thoughts of marijuana misuses including the risk of an STI or unplanned pregnancy due to impaired judgement, numbing and masking issues, peer pressure, not being eligible for employment, and prosecution. Expect a series of video clips leading up to the full PSA. The #SlowYourRoll social media campaign will lead into Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Prevention Week (5/12–5/18/2019), where Teen HYPE will parallel messaging to spark impact.

In 2016, Teen HYPE received a five-year grant from SAMHSA to fund the Greater Than Project. This project utilizes the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework to address substance abuse and HIV prevention at a community level.

SAMHSA's Strategic Prevention Framework
SAMHSA's Strategic Prevention Framework

At the onset of the project, a community-needs assessment was performed to identify the community’s perspective about marijuana use and HIV prevention. The community-needs assessment was focused in the 48207-zip code, where Teen HYPE is located. Collaborating with David Cordova from University of Michigan, community leaders and Teen HYPE’s Youth Development Coalition, Teen HYPE’s Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships surveyed 5 focus groups and interviewed 21 key informants in the community. Those five focus groups and 21 key informants consisted of young people ages 12–14 and 15–17, adults and healthcare providers in the 48207 -zip code, teachers and administrators, organizations, and philanthropic groups. The Youth Development Coalition is comprised of key community members who either live, work or serve youth in the 48207-zip code, members from a preexisting core and the YAC .

Their findings show that youth use marijuana to deal with adverse childhood experiences, to cope or escape mentally and not necessarily as a gateway drug. Findings also show that youth and adults in the community do not see marijuana as an issue by itself. They determined that to understand underlying issues of marijuana misuse, the cause needs to be identified. They believe there needs to be more access to mental health support, medical support, stronger supportive systems of caring adults for youth, and more awareness about the personal and social risk of young people using marijuana. To do this, services need to be optimized in the perimeter of I-75, Warren Avenue, E, Grand Boulevard, and Belle Isle.

To help optimize these services, the Youth Development Coalition chose an evidence-based program (keepin’ it REAL®) to administer. The program’s narrative-based curriculum is intended for middle school students and those transitioning into 9th grade. It coaches youth on healthy communication, refusal skills, conflict resolution, social awareness, and social ecosystem identification. Teen HYPE staff are trained in the program and offer it as an in-school curriculum. As of today, 208 youths have completed the program with Teen HYPE.

When recreational marijuana use became legal in Michigan about halfway through the curriculum component of this grant, intrigue ensued surrounding the approach to this federally-funded project. Teen HYPE does not promote drug use. However, with the new laws we must address the ‘White Rhino’ in the room. To better understand Detroit community stakeholders’ perspectives on marijuana use, we turn to our youth to hear their voices.



On 4/20/2019, catch the first video clip of the PSA, join the conversation online and to use the hashtag #SlowYourRoll. Be sure to follow Teen HYPE on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube @teenHYPEdetroit.

If you’re interested in joining Teen HYPE’s Youth Development Coalition, please contact Dee Smith, Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships, at dorothyhk@teenhype.org.

If you or a young person you know needs free, confidential HIV testing, please call Teen HYPE at 313-948-8427.

If your school is interested in Teen HYPE’s in-school health programming, please call 313-831-8336.

For behavioral health resources, call SAMHSA’s hotline: 800-662-HELP or visit https://www.samhsa.gov/find-treatment. You may also contact Teen HYPE at 313-831-8336 for a referral to one of our youth-friendly partners that provide these supportive resources in your community.