At Faith Community Summit, a focus on helping struggling youth

By on October 28, 2023

Jessica Urbano, NC Certified Peer Support Specialist, addresses attendees at the summit.

Dare County and Eastern North Carolina community services groups gathered on Thursday, Oct. 26 at St. Andrews by the Sea Episcopal Church in Nags Head to participate in the Faith Community Summit on Substance Use and Mental Health presented by the Faith-Based Subcommittee of the Dare County Saving Lives Task Force.

The event focused on ways to help young people struggling with substance use and mental health issues. The summit was open to the public with the intent of reaching out to representatives from the local faith-based community – a large demographic they want to engage. More than half of the roughly 50 audience members were from that community.

“We are a resource for you,” said Bonnie Bennett, the Co-Chair of the task force. “We don’t know how to be there unless you tell us how can we help.”

Presenting panelists included Susan Lee from Be Resilient OBX, Rebecca Woods from Port Health, Paul Pollock with the Dept. of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Kelly Fleming, Co-Chair of the Breaking Through Task Force, Liberty Christian Youth Pastor Nick Blount, NC Certified Peer Support Specialist, Jessica Urbano and Mobile Crisis/Integrated Family Services representative Keith Hamm.

The panel of speakers offered literature, aid sources, and education available for free in Dare County for youth, care givers, and the community at large.

The audience listened as speakers shared their areas of expertise, including the availability of youth pastoring, in-school therapy, a positive parent program, and how the local legal community works to keep youth out of the judicial system.

“We try to over serve, not to over punish them and punish them at a level that is appropriate with what they’ve done,” said Pollock, a court counselor with the Department of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention.

Pollack said he has been seeing a rise in the use of vaping products and THC. “When I started, all of the marijuana would be like bag marijuana, but there’s been a real change, you know, when they came up with the vaping products to supposedly help people to quit smoking,” he said. “You know, vaping is the actual gateway drug compared to alcohol or marijuana, and I just want people to realize that this has taken place in the middle school and it’s very difficult to test.”

Fleming, Health Education and Outreach Supervisor for the Dare County Department of Health and Human Services, introduced several programs including Peer Power, a high school elective that students get credit for. “And they are trained over about five or six weeks on different health education topics,” she said. “And then they go on and teach their younger peers at middle and elementary school.” The goals are to help change unhealthy behaviors and develop positive ones with the focus on nutrition, physical activity and substance use and mental health.

Lee, a Special Projects volunteer with Children and Youth Partnership, explained her coalition’s goal.

“Our mission is to bring awareness and education to the public on adverse childhood and community experiences (ACEs), trauma, and to build a community of resilience in Dare County,” she said. Be Resilient OBX offers workshops to provide training in the community. Key components are identifying ACEs such as sexual and physical abuse, neglect, substance abuse and mental health challenges and focusing on defining and using strengths to help people get through life’s challenges daily. Lee says the more ACEs a person has can have lifelong health effects, including substance use.

Keith Hamm, who works with Mobile Crisis/Integrated Family Services, spoke about the free emergency response service that operates in Eastern North Carolina. They send a qualified mental health professional to assist 24/7/ 365.

“It doesn’t matter what the crisis is,” said Hamm. As Mobil Crisis’ nearest response team is located in Elizabeth City, the response time to Dare County could be longer than their average response time. “If it takes me two hours to respond to that crisis, isn’t it better than waiting two weeks for an appointment?” Hamm said. The group also offers a service called Crisis Chat. “We discovered that young people are much more likely to communicate with their phones,” he said.

Focusing on the positive was a theme that ran through the speakers’ presentations. “There are no bad kids, and I get really mad when people label kids like that, said Liberty Christian Worship Pastor Nick Blount. “There are kids that need Jesus.”

For Rebecca Woods, a therapist with Port Health who works in First Flight Middle School and First Flight High School, helping children includes asking the child and caregiver: “What are some strengths? Because we all have strengths, even if…things are looking hopeless.” One of her treatment strategies is teaching emotion regulation skills to the parents and to the children.

Jessica Urbano, a certified Peer Support Specialist, and member of Narcotics Anonymous shared the benefits of the group. “These people just want to help you,” she said. “That’s all they want, you know, in any walk of life, just to see you get better.”

Bennett closed out the summit on a similar note by sharing a quote printed on the back of the Faith Committee’s new rack card. “We were never meant to do life alone. We need the love and care of others, as much as we are needed by others in the same way.”

The Saving Lives Faith Committee has created a Substance Use, Mental Health & Wellness Resource Guide that includes information on talking to those in need of help, a section on treatment strategies and services, lists of service providers such as therapists and counselors, emergency numbers and treatment centers. It is available in the lobby at Dare County Health and Human Services at 109 Exeter, Street, Manteo.



  • Betty Lou

    There’s no helping the youth of today, just stop wasting precious resources on a lost cause. Use that money to help the homeless or towards racial equity please.

    Saturday, Oct 28 @ 3:15 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice


    Saturday, Oct 28 @ 4:00 pm
  • Travis

    All due respect to…actually…very minimal respect to Pastor Blount.

    “There are no bad kids…There are kids that need Jesus.”

    Ah, and so those kids in households that either follow a different faith or no faith at all, what do you say to them? This “faith based” crowd seems to be suspiciously focused on one faith, one path of healing through one belief system. It is arrogance and does a great disservice to those who might be helped if there was a more expansive view of how that help might be delivered.

    Saturday, Oct 28 @ 9:20 pm
  • Roger

    “Presenting panelists included Susan Lee from Be Resilient OBX, Rebecca Woods from Port Health, Paul Pollock with the Dept. of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Kelly Fleming, Co-Chair of the Breaking Through Task Force, Liberty Christian Youth Pastor Nick Blount, NC Certified Peer Support Specialist, Jessica Urbano and Mobile Crisis/Integrated Family Services representative Keith Hamm.”

    Thank all of you and the groups you represent for the lifesaving work you do.

    Sunday, Oct 29 @ 7:55 am
  • Liz

    Betty Lou’s remark is disgusting. The youth of today are the adults of tomorrow. All youth are bad and are a lost cause? All? What an insulting thing to say. If we give up on the youth of today, as she is suggesting, our world is doomed.

    Sunday, Oct 29 @ 8:46 am
  • Sandflea

    Betty Lou is not completely wrong. Not ALL of the youth are a lost cause, but I believe that there are many more than the pre-cell phone generations. Many of the homeless have mental health and addiction problems.
    Rehab for the most part doesn’t work; but it’s better than nothing. BEST case scenarios for the best available rehab care is about 15%. In fact, opioid deaths continue to rise year after year. These people are social vampires; they will suck the life and money out of you.
    Travis has it right. Also, the faith based crowds tend to ignore science. That is why about 90% of COVID deaths were among the faith based/anti vaxxer folks. I seriously question Pastor Blounts assertion that more kids need Jesus. Is there any data on that? Does Pastor Blount have an advanced degree in any line of healthcare… Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD? All you need is a high school diploma or equivalent to receive a NC Certified Peer Support Specialist certificate. Sorry, but if I had a family member with serious mental health issues, I would want the person treating them to have more than a high school diploma and 40 hours of training with a certificate.

    Sunday, Oct 29 @ 3:14 pm
  • Liz

    I certainly hope that Sandflea can provide facts and figures to back up this declaration, “Also, the faith based crowds tend to ignore science. That is why about 90% of COVID deaths were among the faith based/anti vaxxer folks.” Is there any data on that?

    Many in the Outer Banks community ARE faith-based people. Some young people, not all, may need Jesus to steer them in the right direction. Pastor Blount and other people of faith may provide needed help from that perspective. By bringing up questionable and irrelevant COVID statistics, Sandflea seems to be nitpicking from a place of personal animus, and disparaging people who want to help. Faith-based does not automatically equate to anti vaxxer (or ignorance) as Sandflea is more than implying. Again, is there any data on that?

    Monday, Oct 30 @ 1:24 am
  • Sandflea

    Many people in the Outer Banks community ARE NOT faith based. I’m not disparaging people who want to help; just people who may not have the proper credentials to help in certain fields. Would you let someone with a 40 hr certificate remove a tumor from your lung?
    You asked for data, here is some:

    Re: Deaths from Covid Unvaccinated vs Vaccinated

    Re: Faith based tend to be Anti-Vax

    Re: People of faith tend to reject science
    There have been studies to see if praying for someone with a medical condition really helps. What they found is that if the afflicted person was aware others were praying for them, they tended to do better. If they were unaware, prayer had no effect whatsoever.
    Now, do you have any data on “Kids NEED Jesus”?

    Monday, Oct 30 @ 10:57 am
  • Betty Lou

    Why has this turned into an “anti vaxxer” argument? People can choose to he anti vax just like I can say the troubled youth of today aren’t worth wasting resources on.

    Our world is already doomed Liz, what rock have you been sleeping under?

    Monday, Oct 30 @ 4:02 pm
  • Liz

    Sandflea, you have done an excellent job of cherry-picking.

    Betty Lou, if you read Sandflea’s original comment, you will see where the “anti vaxxer argument” began.

    The negative comments coming from both of you are sad and disheartening.

    Over and out. I’m done commenting on this thread.

    Monday, Oct 30 @ 9:57 pm
  • Jay

    IMO if you can plant the seed of recovery in someone when they are young. Then maybe when they need help with an addiction they will ask for help before the addiction takes them too far down the rabbit hole.

    Tuesday, Oct 31 @ 7:47 am