Hales Corners, Franklin, Greendale and Oak Creek are painting the town red to spread awareness about "Light and Unite Red," a Milwaukee County campaign against substance abuse.
"Light and Unite Red aims to shine light on the dangers of substance abuse and highlight the efforts to prevent substance abuse in our community," said Franklin health nurse Julianna Manske. "Our goal is to engage in prevention, encourage treatment, and support recovery."
This is the second year that Milwaukee County communities have aimed to spread awareness about drugs and alcohol for a week in January to coincide with National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week.
Lighting up Red
One of the biggest signs of Light and Unite Red week is the strong presence of the color red, which is the nationally recognized color of substance abuse awareness.
From large landmarks like the Domes to smaller symbols like the evergreen tree in front of Franklin City Hall, buildings were "lit up red" for the week. In Greendale, the health department also encouraged businesses to participate, handing out Light and Unite Red flyers and red light bulbs to local businesses along Broad Street, hoping to line the street with the color.
On Friday, Franklin and Oak Creek are encouraging city hall workers, students and even residents to wear the color, as well. Greendale supported wearing the color Wednesday.
More than just promoting the color, the towns have been hitting the message of the week, as well, with a big push this year to spread the message online.
"We're doing a lot of social media and online campaigning for the event," said Oak Creek's health specialist Ashley Palen, listing that the health department's Facebook page, city Facebook page and website were being used to spread the Light and Unite Red message, like many other municipalities in the area.
Resident groups are also social media advocates for the week. They include Franklin Area Parents and Students United, who also were sponsors for the week by doing things such as hosting a presentation at the senior meal site in Franklin City Hall.
By sharing this information, Manske said the goal is to show how "parents, educators and youth can work together to recognize, educate, and defeat substance abuse addiction."
The message has also been pushed into the schools, where the message can be most influential.
"The schools have been an excellent partner to work with and support the students’ ideas on how to best capture the attention of their peers and work to encourage their peers in making healthy, informed choices," said Manske.
At Greendale High School, the Health Occupation Student Association hosted lunch time activities to spread awareness, and students who are a part of the Franklin Youth Initiative at Forest Park Middle School posted memes in the hallways "depicting tobacco, alcohol, and other drug prevention messages in a humorous way."
Schools in Franklin and Oak Creek also made daily announcements featuring facts about drug and alcohol abuse. For example, Franklin High School shared that 78 percent of people who smoked marijuana were only 12 to 20 years old and that marijuana use can drop an IQ score by eight points, adding, "Let’s be blunt … there is no-need-for-weed."