The Pennsylvania State Youth survey is issued statewide in the fall of odd-numbered years to any school that opts to participate. COCA urges Berks County schools to participate, because the survey provides crucial information into attitudes and behaviors of Berks County youth on a number of issues that put students at risk (alcohol/tobacco/other drugs, violence, and other problem behaviors. It also assesses students’ perspectives of their school environment and their mental health, and helps gauge the effectiveness of existing prevention and intervention programs.
“The Pennsylvania Youth Survey data is a key piece for prevention planning in Berks County. It helps establish priorities and target audiences for current and future programs,” said COCA Prevention Program Manager Jaclyn Steed.
In Berks County, 15 school districts and one charter school participated, administering the survey to students in 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades, yielding a total of 12,728 valid surveys. That represents a significant uptick from 2017, when eight school districts and one charter school administered the survey. We are grateful to all who participated and for the increase in participation, as it helps provide a more accurate picture of Berks County youth behaviors and attitudes.
Participating schools included:
Yes. PAYS data is mandatory for the Berks County Needs Assessment, which is required to secure state funding for prevention services. Reading School District, for example, received three years of funding for Project Towards No Drug Abuse as a result of PAYS data. The district also received six years of funding, as well as teacher trainings and curriculum materials for Botvin Life Skills, an evidence-based substance abuse and violence prevention program.
The 2019 PAYS questionnaire asked students about bullying, school safety, gambling, depression and, the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. PAYS also asked questions about mental health and suicide risk.
The survey asked questions about 30-day use of marijuana, alcohol and inhalants. In Berks County, 15.2% of students reported having used alcohol within the past 30 days, compared to 16.8% statewide. In Berks, 8.8% of students reported using marijuana in the last 30 days, and 16.6 % had used inhalants, compared to, respectively, 9.6% and 17.7% at the state level.
Among those who had used alcohol, 30.7 percent said their parents had provided it, higher than the 25.7% statewide. Another 33.6% said they took it without permission, while 25.8% got it from a friend or sibling over 21.
In Berks, 49.9% of students had vaped some substance, primarily nicotine (44%) or marijuana (25.4%). Statewide, 46.4% of respondents had vaped some substance, again mostly nicotine (56.6%) and, to a lesser degree, marijuana (26.6%).
Another key finding dealt with prescription drug use, with 4.2% of Berks County youth saying they’d used prescription pain relievers in the past 30 days. The majority of those, 48.5%, took them from a family member, while 34.3% were given them by a friend or family member, and 21.6% bought them.
Get 2020 stats on school safety, substance use & mental health among PA high school studentsView now
77% Felt safe at school
40% Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana