YC2 Annual Legislative Forum
The Youth Community Coalition (YC2) held their annual Legislative Forum on September 19, 2017 at Hickman High School in Columbia, MO. The event allowed for a unique exchange between Boone County area community service people, parents, students and their legislative representatives. In attendance were State Representatives Cherie Reisch (District 44), Kip Kendrick (District 45), Martha Stevens (District 46), Chuck Basye (District 47), and Sara Walsh (District 50) as well as State Senator Caleb Rowden. Ron Rowe and local high school students serving on the Columbia Youth Advisory Board moderated the event. Experts from several Boone County school districts, members of local law enforcement, and members of community organizations also attended to present important information and to distribute helpful materials to those in attendance.
The legislative forum focused on three topics the Coalition addresses- Bullying, Youth Substance Use, and Mental Health and Mental Illness. The Youth Community Coalition is committed to addressing each of these topics by engaging with local law enforcement, schools, community organizations, and local representatives. YC2 is currently working on these issues in Boone County by engaging with local community coalitions and various local service providers.
The structure of the legislative forum differs from typical events or debates where local policymakers discuss their legislative goals in a one-way conversation. The YC2 event invited local experts to present important information on each of the three topics for discussion to the panel of legislators. After this presentation, there was a two-way conversation between the local experts and the legislators. Finally, at the end of these presentations and exchanges, Boone County students and parents were encouraged to ask questions. In response, legislators gave short answers about how they could or should be addressing these issues. The experts invited were also encouraged to chime in and respond to audience questions as well.
This unique format allowed for an exchange ideas in various areas. Of note, students in attendance submitted a variety of questions for both the education experts and the local legislators about cyberbullying. In particular, students wanted to address the issue of cyberbullying. Many parents and local attendees also expressed concern about opioid substance abuse. Members of local substance abuse organizations, local law enforcement, and the legislators responded to questions. The legislators in attendance discussed their views on Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP). Several of the representatives and Senator Rowden discussed their involvement with attempts to pass a PDMP bill and their views on marijuana legalization. Questions about the topic of marijuana were also an important part of the conversation at the Legislative Forum. Finally, attendees detailed concerns regarding mental illness and the funding of treatment for mental illness. Several students asked the legislators to explain their plans to address these issues and to fund new efforts.
In the end, The YC2 Legislative Forum was a unique event that promoted an open dialogue including the voices of students, parents, local experts, and local policymakers. The structure of the event enhances the understanding of community members about the efforts legislators are making in Jefferson City while simultaneously giving legislators insight into what their constituencies value and need in regards to the prevention of youth substance use and risky behavior. This conversation was an important opportunity for Boone County citizens and organizations to express their opinions and concerns. Moreover, this format appreciated and uplifted the voices of youth so that legislators could better understand the needs of those most affected by YC2 programming.