Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Extension members targeted the overwhelmingly increasing drug overdose fatality rate of Kentucky in a very unique way. They created Truth and Consequences: The Choice is Yours, an event designed to show students and other youth the impact of being involved with illicit and legal substances.

Truth and Consequences has evolved into a very effective substance abuse prevention activity since its beginnings in 2010. The hands-on activity’s primary focus is to give both youth and adults the opportunity to better understand the physical, emotional, financial and legal consequences of abusing these drugs.

In planning the program locally, FCS Extension agents strategically select the audience based upon community data. Often, the target is early high school students. This age stood out to be prominent based on the results from a Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) Survey that proved a dramatic increase in drug use between the eighth and 10th grades. This transitional phase of freshman year often entails more stress for students and an increased likelihood of turning to drugs.

With the Truth and Consequences activity, students role-play scenarios including: possession of prescription drugs; driving under the influence; sniffing; possession of alcohol, drug paraphernalia or illegal drugs; trafficking; and stealing drugs. In effort to exploit the most realistic and impactful experience, the students visit with appropriate officials and/or agencies to experience the consequences of their particular scenario’s behavior.

Parents are encouraged to participate in Truth and Consequences with their children to help make the scenarios more genuine. However, when parents are unable to participate, Kentucky Extension Homemaker members or community volunteers assume the role of parents and accompany the students as they visit the law enforcement agencies, judges, school officials, hospital and coroner.

The mastermind behind this highly impactful program is Christy Nuetzman who serves as Clinton County’s Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences. With increased success of the Truth and Consequences program, Nuetzman developed an Extension publication to serve as a manual for other agents to refer to when conducting the program in their counties. In 2014-2015, the program was conducted in 33 counties involving more than 7,000 youth participants.

Nuetzman shared, “When we developed and implemented Truth and Consequences, we had no idea of the impact it would have on our youth. Over the years, it has become one of our most effective substance abuse prevention tools. It’s rewarding to see Truth and Consequences implemented in other communities since substance abuse impacts numerous families throughout the Commonwealth. No community is exempt. Although additional programs and resources are needed, it’s evident that Truth and Consequences is making a difference in the lives of individuals and families.”

Nicole Peritore, Extension Specialist for Family Health, worked with Nuetzman to create an evaluation for the Truth and Consequences program.  Peritore stated, "The program evaluation offers communities a wider view of local students' attitudes and behaviors regarding substance use and abuse than any one single instrument that is used currently.  It provides communities with a better understanding of what's happening locally so that the community can target those areas in their efforts to lower substance use and abuse."

Clinton County’s recent Truth and Consequences program is featured in a video produced by Agricultural Communications in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Author: Cara Croley
Contact: Cara Croley,
Terms: FCS