US Surgeon General Calls for Warning Labels on Social Media

The US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has called for Congress to act to require Warning Labels on social media platforms like we have for tobacco and alcohol. Dr. Murthy argues that the mental health crisis among young people is an emergency — and social media has emerged as an important contributor. He says that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media face double the risk of anxiety and depression symptoms, and the average daily use in this age group, as of the summer of 2023, was 4.8 hours. Additionally, nearly half of adolescents say social media makes them feel worse about their bodies.

Read the full article in the New York Times HERE.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day–January 15, 2024

Photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from the American Broadcasting Company program Open Hearing..

Monday January 15, 2024 is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring one of the most important leaders and thinkers in American history.  Dr. King was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesman and leader in the American civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a great opportunity to reflect on Dr. King’s work, increase our understanding of his legacy, and take action to ensure freedom and justice for all people. Consider it a “day on” rather than a “day off!” Seek out ways to build community! Celebrating and building on Dr. King’s legacy is not limited to one day a year! May the momentum from the January holiday carry us into February’s Black History Month celebrations and beyond: into a daily practice of working towards collective liberation.

Here are some events to explore and resources to inspire ongoing action and learning:

Franklin County and North Quabbin

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration at GCC
For over two decades Greenfield Community College has been celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. This year’s 25th annual event features a program appropriate for all ages with dance, arts and crafts, education, music and free lunch—plus keynote speaker La Wanza Lett-Brewington on “Embracing Our Responsibility to the Legacy” and recognizing the extraordinary actions of Dr. King through his words. Lett-Brewington is a nationally known speaker on leadership, Title IX, equity and social justice and was recently recognized as one 50 distinguished alumni of GCC, where she currently serves as Title IX Coordinator and Affirmative Action Officer. RSVP strongly recommended!

Valuing Our Children will be hosting an MLK Day event at the Athol Public Library. Join Valuing Our Children at The Athol Public Library on Tuesday, January 16th at 3:30 – 5PM (the day after MLK Day).  This free event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is for all ages and will feature art activities, artwork by local teens and tweens, storywalk, history, music, community togetherness, and more! For more information, call Nicole at Valuing Our Children at (978) 249-8467.

Hampshire County

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Amherst at the Bangs Community Center on Monday, January 15 at 1 p.m. The Amherst Human Rights Commission and the Amherst Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will sponsor a celebration of the life of Martin Luther King. The event will include a community reading of King’s speech, “The Quest for Peace and Justice.”  The event is free and open to the public.

Hampden County

Springfield’s annual citywide Dr. King Day Celebration is at the MassMutual Center on January 15.
This event is an important expression of community creativity and solidarity toward healing and change. The annual Dr. King Day Celebration provides all Springfield-area individuals- youth, families, and seniors with an opportunity to celebrate and honor Dr. King’s legacy through a rich tapestry of cultural presentations by community-based organizations. The program includes song, dance, musical performances, and inspirational words by talented youth and adult leaders from the Springfield community. The event reflects the many ways that Dr. King’s life and teachings continue to inspire our community.

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Classics & Jazz – MLK Jr. Celebration at Springfield Symphony Hall on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Conducted by Damien Sneed and and featuring Mebrakh Haughton-Johnson, clarinet, and Jason Flowers, piano, this concert features some of the most beautiful American orchestral compositions created by African Americans. The first part of the program incorporates two well-known female composers, Florence Price and Margaret Bonds. The second half of the program is all about jazz. The concert’s finale is the world premiere of Sneed’s “A Symphonic Homage to The Duke,” a sizzling tribute to one of America’s greatest composers, Duke Ellington.

Berkshire County

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at First United Methodist Church, Pittsfield on Monday, Jan. 15 from , 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Berkshire Community College will honor one of America’s greatest heroes by giving back to the community at its annual Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service event. Join them for breakfast and a keynote by Michael Obasohan, chief diversity officer for the City of Pittsfield. This will be followed by volunteer activities and lunch provided by Smokey Divas.

Links to additional resources

The National Civil Rights Museum has a page on Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy with subpages on the following topics (each clickable within the linked page above):

Embrace Race has a page/article MLK Day and the Danger of A “Single Story”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute supports a broad range of educational activities illuminating Dr. King’s life and the movements he inspired.  The Institute website includes links to documents, other sites, curriculum, and opportunities for further connections.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, GA includes the places where Dr. King was born, lived, worked, worshipped, and is buried. Come hear his story, visit the home of his birth, and where he played as a child.  Walk in his footsteps, and hear his voice in the church where he moved hearts and minds.  Marvel at how he was an instrument for social change. Even if you cannot get to Atlanta, the website includes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy of Racial and Social Justice: A Curriculum for Empowerment

Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) also has some great resources for educators/mentors.  Its collection of lessons, teachable texts and further reading helps educators bring the work of Dr. King to life in any learning setting.

Civil Rights Teaching is another source for educational resources for Teaching about Martin Luther King Jr. and beyond.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Dr. King is known for his speeches and writings.  Here is a link to some of his memorable quotations.  Make sure to research the source of the quotation to gain an understanding of the context in which Dr. King said or wrote it.

The Arts provide an embodied connection with Dr. King’s legacy:

Colorlines has a playlist of songs that sample MLK speeches or reference his legacy

Ultimate Classic Rock has 12 Classic Songs Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.

Check out the movie Selma, a 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches initiated and directed by James Bevel and led by Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, and John Lewis.

Many artists have been inspired by Dr. King’s work, including Faith Ringgold, an Artist-activist who illustrated King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail in eight serigraphs.

Other ways to take action throughout the year:

  • Support organizations working on voting rights
  • Support Black-owned businesses

Black-owned restaurants, grocers in Springfield and across Western Massachusetts you can support

Amherst Area Minority / BIPOC-Owned Businesses

Coalition Releases 2024 Community Action Plan

We released our newly updated Community Action Plan on October 27, 2023, at the Fall Full Coalition Meeting. The plan will guide our work until we formally update it again in 2026. The new plan strengthens the Coalition’s vision, mission, values, and strategies to reflect our commitment to health equity and social justice. Each of our 5 workgroups (Racial Justice, Parent & Family Engagement, Policy and Norms, School Health, and the NEW Community Supports for Young People Workgroup) has updated their goals, their membership, and the strategies they focus on.  The Community Action Plan is constantly evolving, and we always welcome your input! Check out the new 2024 Community Action Plan

Family Day, 2024

Family Day is a national holiday observed on the last Monday of September each year to celebrate the benefits of spending time together as a family.

CTC Celebrates 20 Years!

The Communities That Care Coalition celebrates its 20th anniversary with a lunch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. Photo credit: Kat Allen

The Communities That Care Coalition just celebrated its 20-Year Anniversary! Click HERE to see the Greenfield Recorder’s coverage!

CTC Releases 20th Annual Student Health Survey Results

Over the holiday weekend, the Communities That Care Coalition released the results from their 20th annual survey of middle and high school students in Franklin County and the North Quabbin region. Nearly 1600 students throughout 9 public school districts participated in the survey this past spring, adding to a wealth of information on substance use, mental health, and the rapidly changing landscape of pressures youth in the community are facing.

Encouragingly, drug and alcohol use among local youth has declined dramatically over the last two decades, falling to all-time lows in the height of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, and remaining at-or-below pre-pandemic levels as in-person activities have largely resumed. Even vaping – which appeared suddenly in recent years and increased sharply to nearly a third of all students using vape products in 2018 – has since dropped to less than a fifth of students.

Cannabis use, however, has declined less than other substances, coinciding with students’ attitudes about its risks relaxing considerably. With a suite of major state policy changes since 2012 and a multi-billion-dollar commercial industry with highly-visible advertisement in its wake, students are acutely aware of new norms. “We do what adults do and what people who we think are responsible do”, said a local middle school student participating in a recent focus group on substance use. “If we think it’s cool or respectable, we want to replicate that behavior because that might make us cool or respectable.”

This year’s survey included an additional look at over 30 risk and protective factors that increase or decrease the chances of substance use, school dropout, teen pregnancy, violence, and mental health issues. These factors were last included in the survey back in 2018 – before the COVID-19 pandemic isolated youth and made them even more dependent on screens. Perhaps not surprisingly, overall protective factors have declined, a demonstration of just how much the pandemic continues to undermine young people’s systems of support.

Arguably the most palpable toll reflected in the data is on mental health. Indeed, symptoms of depression and anxiety among students had already been escalating since 2015, but have now skyrocketed to more than half of all students reportedly feeling sad or depressed most days, and two-thirds of students feeling anxious or worried most days. Further, relatively few students are feeling acknowledged for positive social interactions and achievements at home or in the community; and despite ample praise received at schools, students are feeling less committed than ever to their school.

There are many efforts underway in the community to support youth mental health, including expanded access to clinical therapies; LGBTQ+-affirming social groups; evidence-based social and emotional skill-building programs in local schools, arts programs, sports programs, peer-to-peer supports, and more. In the data release, the Coalition also underscored the importance of family attachment – a measure which the Student Health Survey data shows has improved considerably locally over the last 20 years. Contrary to what parents may think at times, the importance of young people feeling connected and supported at home cannot be understated, and is strongly correlated with improved mental health.

A slide show, narrated video presentation, and other materials for the 2022 Student Health Survey can be found at

WWLP Highlight Coalition’s Family Day Efforts

WWLP Channel 22, the largest news station in Western Mass, covered the Coalition’s efforts at promoting quality family time on the evening news on Family Day! Check out the coverage HERE.

PEER Ambassadors create videos to celebrate Family Day!

In celebration of Family Day, the Coalition’s PEER Ambassadors worked with GCTV to create a video Public Service Announcements – check out the version in English and the one in Spanish! The videos highlight the many benefits of family dinners and quality family time and encourages people to set up routines that include regular time for family connection. National Family Day – which celebrates simple, everyday things parents do to connect with their kids – is the Fourth Monday in September each year. This year Family Day is September 26th. Check out the videos and then celebrate with your Family!!

2022 Parent Guide Released!

The Parent and Family Engagement Workgroup’s 2022 Parent Guide was released on Wednesday, September 21. This 16-page insert is distributed through the Greenfield Recorder and the Athol Daily News, and includes valuable information for local parents on topics including substance use prevention, mental health promotion, health and nutrition, online safety, and more, with an emphasis on local resources. This year’s guide has a great cover article on support systems for transgender young people and their families. It also includes lots of photos and contributions from the Coalition’s PEER Community Ambassadors (PEER=Parent Engagement, Enrichment, and Resources). Take a look and share it widely!