A series of focus groups of Latino teens, parents and educators in Montgomery County has revealed a troubling disconnect between the scope of the teen substance use problem and the tools to properly address it.

The Substance Use Needs Assessment, carried out through a partnership between Identity and the University of Maryland School of Public Health, found that Latino youth and parents desperately want more information from trusted sources on how to prevent dangerous or illegal substance use.

As the report emphasizes, Latino youth and parents “expressed concern over growing numbers of students who may be at risk for use of drugs like counterfeit pills, fentanyl and marijuana. Parents, in particular, asked Identity to provide recommendations for information and strategies around prevention and use of substances among Latino youth.”

In a promising finding, youth and adults who participated in the focus groups were largely aligned in their recommendations. “Teenagers and their parents do not usually see eye to eye. So it’s especially notable, as in this case, when they’re on the same page,” said Amy Lewin, Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park, and lead author of the report. “We found that Latino parents and their children both want more education on substance use from people they trust and tools for how to have proactive and productive conversations.”

While cultural traditions and beliefs contribute to both substance use risks and protective factors for Latino youth, other factors – including language barriers, stigma surrounding substance use, lack of awareness about the resources available and reluctance to seek help due to legal and/or immigration concerns – can significantly increase their risk factors. Identity is committed to working closely with the community to ensure young people and their families have the information, tools and resources they need to avoid harmful substance use.

The needs assessment, which has received coverage in MoCo 360, WTOP News and DC News Now, can be read in full here.