Intervention and Prevention: How Peter is giving Santa Monica’s high risk youth a chance

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Spend a few minutes with Peter and it becomes clear that he’s the kind of person committed to living in the present moment. He’s dynamic and engaging in conversation. He’s witty. And during our time together — he mentions the beauty of our immediate surroundings no less than three times.

But Peter isn’t just living in the present. He’s also preparing for the future — by investing his time in the youth of Santa Monica. It’s an invaluable investment, one that Santa Monica stands behind. Equipping teens with the tools they need to succeed will help reduce the risk of lifelong substance use disorders and help mitigate the risk of homelessness.

Equipping Youth for the Future

Peter works at the CLARE Foundation  — a Santa Monica-funded nonprofit specializing in cost-effective substance use disorder recovery, prevention, and behavioral health.

Specifically, Peter works in the prevention and intervention department with high-risk youth. “High-risk” in this context refers to teens that may have mental health challenges or substance use disorders — or are at significant risk of developing them. Many of these teens have undergone trauma in the past, and some are currently under-housed or teetering on the edge of homelessness.

Peter spends each day counseling youth and families, leading group discussions in schools, and teaching workshops focused on real-life skills. In essence, he is helping build a foundation the kids can walk on as they move beyond substance misuse and into adulthood.

Peter’s work has a positive impact on individuals — and it also positive repercussions for the community at large, since substance misuse can be a huge contributing factor to homelessness. (Although Peter is careful to point out that homelessness can happen to anyone, not just those with substance use disorders.) With early-on intervention and education, however, efforts can be made to prevent that eventuality. As Peter says: “We’re seeking to reduce homelessness here in Santa Monica by providing the youth with real life tools that they can use to combat becoming homeless. Substance abuse education is just one of those tools.”

Equipping Families for the Present

Peter emphasizes the importance of whole-family care during the teen years, especially when substance use is involved. He encourages parental self-care, as well as family counseling to improve communication and promote the health of the entire family unit. Not only will these steps help reduce stress, they’ll also also serve as positive behavior modeling for the youth: “The best thing you can do as a parent is to lead by example… The teens are looking to see how you handle these stressors. If the parents handle them with grace, with a little bit of dignity, and more self-focus … that’s going to be great for the children.”

With positive role modeling and a solid family base behind them, these kids will get an even better chance at beating the odds and avoiding lifelong substance use disorders and the potential for homelessness.

Share Your Passion

Peter says that positive role models are always needed and that members of the community  are welcome to volunteer with CLARE Foundation. There are a lot of ways to get involved — including administrative tasks, fundraising, and digital support. Specifically, Peter would also like to see people lead workshops that could expand the kids’ horizons and introduce them to new possibilities. He suggests drawing on your own passions and interests — like filmmaking, art, or even pragmatic vocational skills — and sharing those with the kids. You can also donate monetarily to the CLARE Foundation here.

To stay up to date with all the ways Santa Monica is strengthening our youth and preparing them for the future, visit us at weare.santamonica.gov.