Franklin County’s Prevention Work Draws International Attention

Franklin County’s Prevention Work Draws International Attention

Health Department’s Berry a Featured Speaker at Iceland, Mexico Conferences

The work of Franklin County’s Just Say Yes coalition was featured this month at the annual Planet Youth conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. The conference theme was “Prevention through Social Change: The Icelandic Prevention Model in Action.” This was the second international conference in recent months whose organizers invited Amelia Berry, Just Say Yes Project Director at the Franklin County Health Department, to share about prevention work happening in Franklin County. In December, Berry presented at the 3rd International Congress on Mental Health and Addiction Prevention in Guanajuato, Mexico.

Just Say Yes – and the Icelandic Prevention Model on which it is based – focuses on stopping addiction before it starts by creating healthier environments that lessen the risk that kids will initiate substance use during adolescence. Delaying first use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs dramatically decreases risk of substance use disorder later in life. The model calls for a long-term, collaborative, whole-community approach that uses real-time data from youth to gradually decrease risk factors – such as long stretches of unsupervised time when school is out, inadequate parental monitoring or support, and easy access to substances – and to increase protective factors (such as regular participation in structured activities like sports and arts, positive relationships with peers and adults at school, and parental collaboration to enforce shared norms against youth substance use). 

Berry said she felt fortunate to be able to represent Franklin County, where everyone from parents to school districts to churches, nonprofits, businesses and local government have played an active role in Just Say Yes. “What’s most exciting to me is getting to learn from communities that are a little bit ahead of us in implementing this model – places like Fayetteville, West Virginia and Guanajuato in Mexico – where they have many of the same challenges that we have in Franklin County, and yet by sticking with this process they have seen their substance use numbers go down, in addition to seeing protective factors go up, which we know will also help with mental health, violence and other problems over time.”

The conference in Iceland drew 170 participants from 25 countries – including sites in Europe, Africa, North and South America, and New Zealand, while the Mexico conference drew a mostly Latin American audience of nearly 2,000 people. 

The Just Say Yes coalition – first conceived when Berry was Executive Director of Yes Arts – has been based at the Franklin County Health Department since the initiation of a CDC-funded pilot project in 2020. From its home base at the Health Department, Just Say Yes partners with over 50 organizations and businesses in Franklin County.

The coalition’s flagship program is the Yes Card, a digital voucher that pays for activity fees at over 30 local activity providers, including Parks & Rec, school sports, and a number of smaller vendors such as dance studios, martial arts studios and youth sports leagues. After a pilot at Second Street School led to significant increases in activity participation, the Yes Card was expanded this school year to cover all public school 6th-8th graders in Franklin County. 

Berry said the coalition is eagerly awaiting the receipt of data reports from the Franklin County Youth Survey, administered to middle and high school students last month. Annual data from youth provides critical information to guide local prevention efforts, which include not just the Yes Card but also Parent & Youth Cafes and a range of efforts implemented by schools and community partners.

Anyone interested in scheduling a data presentation for their group should contact Berry at [email protected]. Data will also be shared on the coalition’s website ( and facebook page (

Press Release, March 2024