Sitting around a campfire in a wooded area in Indianapolis, Indiana University student Alan Alvarez couldn't help but be moved by the stories he was hearing. Young campers at Camp Mariposa-Aaron's Place were sharing letters they had written about addiction and how it had impacted their families. Camp Mariposa-Aaron’s Place is a year-round addiction prevention and mentoring program for youth affected by the substance use disorder of a family member. Although shocked by how much the children knew about addiction, Alvarez could also relate. He grew up with a father addicted to cocaine and gambling. His family worked to shelter him from the turmoil caused by addiction, but Alvarez knew his life was unusual. So, when he had the opportunity to volunteer at the camp, Alvarez jumped on board. Led by Overdose Lifeline and community partners, Camp Mariposa-Aaron’s Place provides young people affected by addiction with traditional camp activities and a place to speak freely and openly about substance use disorder without stigmatization. In the United States, 9.2 million children live in a home with at least one parent who uses illicit drugs. Through a partnership with IU, graduate-level mentors like Alvarez who are studying medicine, occupational therapy and social work serve as mentors. The camp is the only site approaching mentorship in this way. Student mentors are trained in trauma-informed care, mental health development among adolescents, and health care and social bias. Additionally, as part of IU's Racial Justice Research funding program, a research team from IU will evaluate the effectiveness of the mentorship model. The goal is not only to provide mentors to the campers, but to give IU students interested in health care an opportunity to improve their knowledge in dealing with vulnerable populations.
In other news, with summer comes rain, wind and in some places, hurricane season. While many cities have preparations in place for coming rainstorms and flood, IU biogeochemist Gabriel Filippelli says they better rethink those plans. Filippelli says cities face difficult challenges when preparing for weather disasters, including enormous expenses, a lack of good climate data, potential political backlash and the same psychological shortcoming that keeps humanity from addressing climate change in general: It’s tough to convince people to dig deep into their pockets to prevent disasters that may not happen in their lifetime. Nonetheless, he says, cities better prepare, and soon. According to Climate Central, an independent organization of journalists and scientists, the amount of precipitation that falls in very heavy rain events increased 37% in Indiana and nearby states between 1958 and 2012. Filippelli says the frequency of extreme rainfall events has increased 15% since about 1990, and models project another 15% increase by 2050. That means unless cities have over-engineered their infrastructure, they won’t be prepared for what’s coming, he says. But when it comes to installing expensive infrastructure, Filippelli says cities often find themselves in a tough spot, squeezed on one side by taxpayers unwilling to fork over additional dollars, and on the other by a worsening climate that exposes cities and their leaders to ever greater risk for disasters.