Somerset County Results for Child Well-Being

This scorecard tracks the county-level results and indicators for Somerset County.

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Use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs poses many health risks for youth.Early use of some substances is associated with later drug use and the prevalence of high-risk behaviors.

While only a one-year snapshot, it is notable that Somerset County youth evidenced a higher percentage of substance use than students across Maryland in every reported category.Of particular concern is the use of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, Ecstacy, prescription medication, and the like.On the other hand, it is important to remember that the small sample size of Somerset County students can lead to high percentages with few students reporting use.That is not to diminish the importance of these numbers; rather the caution about sample size is offered to put the importance of this data but within a reasonable context.This Indicator clearly deserves further attention as more data are collected in future years given this first year’s report.

There was frequent mention of the health of Somerset’s children by key informants.Often raised was the ability (or inability) of youth to access a growing number of healthy, recreational activities; multiple interviewees were very complimentary of increased recreational opportunities in the county for youth.This was especially important, said one, in addressing childhood obesity.While some thought that having few population centers in the county made it easier to reach out to the community by locating programs close to these centers, others still saw transportation to recreational facilities and programs as a barrier.One informant suggested securing permission to use MA transportation to healthy activities as well as medical appointments.

Without exception, all key informants saw the illegal use of drugs and alcohol among youth as a major problem, certainly not unique to Somerset but a large and growing concern for many. Some were especially concerned about the county population’s reluctance to see drug and alcohol use among youth as the problem that it is.It was pointed out that all school nurses are trained in the use of NorCan in order to be able to handle on-school drug emergencies and that fact alone, said one, should raise concern among parents over the use of drugs. The use of heroin, and recent deaths due to overdose, was noted as especially tragic; it was the hope of one interviewee that the seriousness of heroin use, because it cannot be ignored, would “not allow residents to side step the problems of drug use.” Many again mentioned the underutilization of programs for drug and alcohol treatment available through the Health Department, especially programs for youth.

The focus group of representatives from community child and family agencies and organizations saw the growing use of drugs and alcohol among youth as one of their top concerns, as it was also among representatives of the law enforcement community.When asked what percentage of those incarcerated in the county came to the criminal justice system because of involvement with drugs, the response was “100%.”If not incarcerated for a drug offense, per se, their offenses were often other crimes used to get money to support use.

Strategies to improve these indicators

Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol

Childrens Safe Initiative

Why Is This Important?

The use of drugs and alcohol by county youth was the top concern.This concern is backed up by the snapshot data that comes from the 2013 Maryland Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (YRBS). While only a one-year snapshot, it is notable that Somerset County youth evidenced a higher percentage of substance use than students across Maryland in every reported category.Of particular concern is the use of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, Ecstacy, prescription medication, and the like. While the caution about small sample size is worth noting, it should not diminish the seriousness of the problem; a high importance has been placed on this Indicator by leaders in the community.

Data Discussion

Alcohol Use (2013) – Percentage of public school students
in grades 9-12 who:

Somerset

Maryland

Have ever had a drink of alcohol

63.4

60.9

Had a drink of alcohol before age 13

28.7

19.3

Are current drinkers (at least one drink of alcohol on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey)

36.8

31.2

Are binge drinkers (five or more drinks of alcohol, within a couple of hours, on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey)

22.7

17.0

Tobacco Use (2013) – Percentage of public school students
in grades 9-12 who:

Somerset

Maryland

Ever tried cigarette smoking

*

*

Smoked a whole cigarette before age 13

16.5

8.0

Are current cigarette smokers (smoked cigarettes on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey)

20.5

11.9

Are heavy cigarette smokers (smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day on the days they smoked during the 30 days before the survey)

*

*

Are current smokeless tobacco users (used chewing tobacco, snuff, or dip on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey)

13.2

7.4

Are current cigar smokers(smoked cigars on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey)

15.4

12.5

Marijuana Use (2013) – Percentage of public school students in grades
9-12 who:

Somerset

Maryland

Have ever tried marijuana

37.8

35.9

Tried marijuana for the first time before age 13

16.2

8.8

Are current marijuana users (used marijuana one or more times during the 30 days before the survey)

20.0

19.8

Other Drug Use (2013) – Percentage of public school students in grades 9-12 youth who ever used the following drugs one or more times.

Somerset

Maryland

Cocaine (including powder, crack, or freebase)

13.1

6.5

Methamphetamines

9.3

5.0

Heroin

10.3

4.9

Ecstacy

12.2

8.3

Steroids (pills or shots without prescription)

9

5.1

Inhalants (glue, aerosol cans, paint)

13.9

10.4

Prescription Drugs

16.9

15.2

*Data not collected

Source: 2013 Maryland Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (YRBS)

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Story Behind the Curve

The factors causing this trend include the presence of unsafe homes and/or communities, gang related shootings within the community, increased drug use among adults and adolescents, easy access to alcohol and drugs, an absence of healthy, positive role models, and the overwhelming prevalence of poverty in the community. In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck Somerset County, hitting the Crisfield area particularly hard, adding to the burden of already poverty-stricken families and playing a role in the spike in juvenile violent offenses. The number of students participating in Free and Reduced Meals in the public school system has risen this year, indicating that poverty is increasing as well.In our elementary schools, 75% of children enrolled receive Free and Reduced Meals; the rate increased by 1.3% from the previous school year.The rate for middle school students increased by 1% to reach 74.6%, and for high school students, it jumped 5.4% to reach 68.1% (Maryland Report Card, 2014).Typically, the lower high school rate can be tied to youth employment and increased wages in their families, so an increase of this size suggests an alarming expansion of poverty in Somerset County.

Strategies to improve these indicators

FY15 LMB strategies to improve these indicators:

Local Access Mechanism – SPA and Navigation Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol
Why Is This Important?

Addressing violence as a norm, parents’ use of violence as a means to settle conflict, and teaching appropriate methods of solving conflict reduces the risk of juvenile violent and serious non-violent arrests, and later arrests as adults.Changing views on violence as a norm will also impact gang activity, general crime, and improve community safety.

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The decline in Somerset County’s overall MSA scores, despite an increase in the number of students performing at a basic level, mirrors the overall dip in scores across the State of Maryland.The implementation of a Common Core standards based assessment and curriculum further increases the need for after school program support for students.Compared to current standards and practices, Common Core creates an educational atmosphere that raises the bar for student performance.Transitioning lower performing students to higher, more complex standards provides challenges to Somerset County Public Schools. Additionally Somerset County schools field-tested the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment for ELA/literacy and math, so not every student completed either a reading or math MSA.Since the county's rate of success lags behind the entire student population of the state, the MSA math and reading scores for the students dropped, and the implementation of the PARCC assessment creates challenges to student achievement during the transition period, it becomes apparent that interventions are crucial for the educational development of the youth population. Poor school performance, including absence from school and falling behind one or more grade levels, increases the likelihood of involvement in delinquent activity.

Factors that in the past appear to have supported a positive trend in scores include the success of truancy court, the implementation of uniforms in the schools, the presence of the Gear-Up program in the high schools, and positive reinforcement accompanying academic success.Some factors that could threaten the continued positive trend include the move of the eighth grade students to the high school buildings, replacing the MSA with the PARCC,
Strategies to improve these indicators

FY15 LMB strategies to improve these indicators: K is for College

Why Is This Important?

To improve academic performance, attendance, and developmental assets of students to reduce the potential risk of future problems academically and socially. All areas of Somerset County continue to battle with high levels of child poverty, low educational attainment by adults, and poor Maryland State Assessment (MSA) math and reading scores; these issues pose serious obstacles for the success of our youth.

Data Discussion

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Somerset County’s child poverty rate is significantly and consistently well above the state percentage.Over the five year period for which data are presented, the data has also shown a consistent upward trend.The trendline predicts that this increase will continue over the next five years without effective intervention.This Indicator is one of serious concern for Somerset County.

Key informants made frequent mention of their concern over the extent of poverty in the county, especially child poverty. Much of this concern was intertwined into earlier discussions of lack of job opportunities, transportation, and adequate services.Touching on both hunger and poverty, it was noted by a few interviewees that Free and Reduced Price Meals were now being offered in the schools to all of the children in the county, without regard to income, because of the high number of qualifying children.As one said, however, “Summer is still a problem.”One interviewee put hunger at the top of a long list of all concerns in the county.

Affordable housing concerns community leaders, too.In one county town, 40% of its residents are in subsidized housing.As was noted before, a number of families are known to have relocated to Somerset in order to be able to maximize their voucher value in low rent housing.

The issues that fall within this Result have touched the lives of the disconnected youth interviewed.Two had been homeless within the past year.Adequate income, therefore hunger and involvement with the child welfare system, was a constant worry.Social service organizations (non-profits) who could help support their families, medical doctors for their children, and shopping were mostly located in Salisbury, and none had cars. Poverty was also a concern for the law enforcement officials.As was mentioned before, poverty and lack of job opportunities was their highest rated concern.After a review of preliminary Indicator data, members of the interagency focus group rated child poverty among the top three challenges the county faces.
Strategies to improve these indicators

Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents

Active Parenting

Sustainable Somerset

Why Is This Important?

Poverty and lack of employment are so intertwined as to be almost inseparable.With these two, unfortunately, often come child hunger, homelessness, and too frequently child maltreatment.Clearly, this nexus is of primary concern to Somerset’s community.The data illustrate those concerns.All four Indicators exhibit data that are of concern and trends that predict negative trends.

Somerset County has a higher percentage of child food insecurity than is found within the state as a whole.According to Map the Meal Gap, the 2013 percentage indicates that 1,250 of the county’s 4,412 children under age 18 are food insecure.All students in Somerset County public schools now receive Free and Reduced Price Meals without regard to income because so many students met the eligibility requirements.

Data Discussion

Percentage of children under 18 whose family income is equal to or below the federal poverty threshold.

Percentage of Children under 18 Living in Poverty


2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

SOMERSET

29.8%

29.3%

32.1%

35.2%

38.1%

MD

11.8%

13.1%

13.9%

14.1%

13.9%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates

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