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  • Dylan Anderson

Steamboat Police working to raise awareness on a variety of teen issues ahead of next week's prom

Topics range from impaired driving and substance abuse to mental health and teen dating violence.

Steamboat Springs Police in schools
Steamboat Springs Police are working to raise awareness on a variety of issues ahead of prom next week, trying to reach students who are planning to attend and those for whom it may not be their thing. (City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy)

With Steamboat Springs High School Prom approaching, the Steamboat Springs Police Department is working to raise awareness on multiple issues from impaired driving and substance abuse to mental health and teen dating violence.

Patty Oakland, a civilian investigator with the department, said the goal is to reach teens that plan to go to prom and those for whom it may just not be their thing.

“[Prom] can be isolating or even just frustrating — not every kid wants to get really dressed up, pay a lot of money and got to a dance and for others it’s really exciting and it’s fun,” Oakland said. “I used prom as a platform leading up to this, but it’s really wanting to acknowledge all teenagers and all of their choices throughout this week.”

Each day next week has a different theme, with planned social media messaging and other initiatives, like placing a wrecked car in town the help illustrate the dangers of impaired driving. Oakland said she worked with school resource officer Lisa Eifling to put the effort together, noting that it shouldn’t always be on the schools to tackle some of these topics.

Part of the reason some of these topics were chosen, she said, was because there are resources in town to address them and in some cases even nonprofits devoted to them. Oakland said she is working with 17 different community organizations for what they are referring to as teen safety week and hopes to reach students throughout Steamboat Springs, not just ones that attend the High School.

“They’re taxed right, all of the schools,” Oakland said. “I feel like there is an opportunity for the community to step in and support the school systems and their efforts, but really support our teenagers in our community.”

Some of the topics are obvious issues across the country when considering prom, but Oakland said others are general issues that are facing many teenagers whether it is the week before prom or not. Things kick off on Monday with a focus on driving impaired or under the influence, and Tuesday focuses on texting behind the wheel and distracted driving. Wednesday seeks to discuss substance abuse and misuse.

Thursday is then focused on mental health, depression, suicide and a sense of belonging, with Friday looking at teen dating violence, sexual assault and sexual pressures.

Also from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, the department is hosting a teen safety fair at the Steamboat Springs Community Center where students and their parents can learn more about what services are available locally, perhaps before they are in a situation where they need to use them.

“Teen safety is just safety for all of us right,” Oakland said. “It’s also just a reminder for all of us adults of the resources that are in our community and that we have a community that cares.”

Throughout the week there will be a wrecked car stationed at Dr. Rich Weiss Park in Steamboat, which hopes to visualize for students and the broader community what the outcome of a serious crash can be — something first responders see all the time but many teens may not.

She said staging the vehicle isn’t supposed to be a scare tactic, but hopes to raise awareness and respect for the dangers posed when getting behind the wheel. As a former emergency room nurse who has seen the outcomes of many of these crashes, Oakland hopes this can help prevent it from happening to begin with.

“One of the reasons I’ve transitioned to prevention work is that it was heartbreaking to hear people say, I didn’t know. 'I didn’t know somebody can be ejected out of the car if they weren’t wearing a seatbelt. … I didn’t know if I used cocaine I could have a stroke,'” Oakland said. “How do we get people to know? So that’s really the goal of all of this.”


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