TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (WAND) - Taylorville Memorial Hospital won the Community Project Award from the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network. 

This was for their “Catch My Breath” vaping prevention program, which was created to help students learn about the risks of vaping. The program was created after administrators at Taylorville Junior High School saw an increase in vaping on campus. 

Assistant Principal Jennifer Wise says through establishing a partnership with TMH, the students get a full perspective on the health risks of vaping. 

"The long term effects were really important to us because these students,  they have access to these whether it be through siblings or other people that they're crossing paths with, that they're getting them from so trying to educate them of what the consequences are in the long term effects of these vapes is important," said Wise. 

The program consists of four one-hour sessions that teach kids how to refuse a vape, how vaping companies target kids, and how vaping can impact long-term health. 

"We put approximately 500 kids through the program and about 93% of them felt like they it was beneficial and that they would make make better decisions as a result of the program," said Darrin Buttz, Director of Community Health at Taylorville Memorial Hospital. 

Buttz said after the program was complete, several students reached out and asked for help to quit vaping. This led TMH to start a secondary 10-week program where students met in small groups to discuss how to quit their vaping habit. 

The program helped students recognize that vaping is not a solution to deeper mental health problems. 

"Almost everyone of the kids in our program said they have anxiety," said Laura Polly, Director of Ancillary Services at TMH. "If you have have anxiety, go to the doctor, get the children to the doctor and deal with that anxiety in a way that is medically supervised instead of them going off on their own and deciding that a drug, whether it's a vape or whatever else that they're going to choose as an unhealthy alternative." 

The program directors say they want to expand the program throughout the county to students in grades 5-12. 

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