I had the privilege of spending this week in National Harbor, Maryland at the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) Conference. The message this week has consistently been that community coalitions are effective in reducing local substance use rates among youth and in creating safer and healthier communities. Alcohol and drug problems manifest in local communities and show up in our schools, churches, health centers, and in our homes. Coalition work helps local leaders and community partners organize to identify the youth drug issues unique to their communities and develop the infrastructures necessary to effectively prevent and respond to the these issues to target the prevention needs of youth, their families, and surrounding communities.
The Drug Free Communities Support Program (DFC) is a Federal grant program that provides funding to community-based coalitions that organize to prevent youth substance use. The DFC program has funded nearly 2,000 coalitions and currently mobilizes nearly 9,000 community volunteers across the country. In Ulster County, Kingston Cares and the Community Partnership for a Safer New Paltz have received DFC funding. Recent evaluation data indicate that where DFC dollars are invested, youth substance use is lower.
Over the past five years, DFC-funded communities have achieved significant reductions in youth alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use. For middle school youth living in DFC-funded communities, data from the 2011 DFC National Evaluation indicate a 12% reduction in alcohol use, 28% reduction in tobacco use, and 24% reduction in marijuana use. High school-aged youth have reduced their use of alcohol by 8%, tobacco by 17%, and marijuana by 11% in DFC-funded communities. Even when communities start their coalition work with substance use rates higher than the national average, they were able to reduce to rates lower than the national average through organized and effective coalition work.
Recent data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) as well as local data indicate increases in youth prescription drug abuse, as well as marijuana and ecstasy. Now, more than ever, coalitions are needed in local communities to help prevent drug use and reduce its consequences.
In the coming months, the Ulster Prevention Council will be hosting community meetings throughout the county to raise awareness about local youth substance use issues and the importance of engaging all sectors of the community in addressing these issues. To host a community meeting or find out about organizing a coalition in your area, please contact me at the UPC, 458-7406 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Coalitions work!
Director, Ulster Prevention Council