FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, Sept 6, 2010
Communities United for Substance Abuse Prevention (CUFSAP) received news this week that they have been awarded a Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant. CUFSAP was one of four new awardees in New Hampshire. The grant is for $125,000 per year for five years. Liz Hennig, Coordinator for the Coalition, gave thanks to everyone who worked on the application. Hennig said that the DFC grant will help sustain the Coalition’s efforts to reduce underage alcohol and drug use in Sullivan County.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) directs the Drug Free Communities Support Program in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The DFC program provides grants for periods of up to five years to community coalitions that facilitate citizen participation in local youth drug prevention efforts including prescription drug diversion and prevention initiatives and underage drinking programs. Those groups who receive these awards are comprised of community leaders, parents, youth, teachers, religious and fraternal organizations, health care and business professionals, law enforcement, and the media. “Data show that communities receiving DFC funding have seen significant reductions in past 30-day use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana among middle and high school students” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Policy in a White House press release announcing the awards.
“Action at the community level—in school rooms, community centers, churches and at kitchen tables—can help drive rates of substance abuse down,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. It is about supporting communities that are bringing people together to create healthy and drug free environments for children.
Hennig said, “This is a big boost to our prevention efforts throughout the County.” She expressed the hope that CUFSAP which is a coalition of over twenty-five community and State organizations would become even more effective in the future.
Many individuals and agencies, though aware of the problems, have not felt they have any power to effect change. This has been a major focus of CUFSAP in the past three years and has led to partners coming together to identify problems and find creative ways to begin addressing them. Lack of coordination has been a contributing factor, but it is changing and will be the backbone of efforts to move forward. We will achieve these goals through these strategies for change by 1) helping to ease access to resources, and the ability and opportunity for parents and other community members to use them, 2) helping to put together incentives for making positive choices and disincentives for attitudes supporting of abuse, and 3) helping to develop policy changes that are against youth alcohol and drug abuse.
This is what prevention is all about. “It promotes healthy attitudes and behaviors in a community” Hennig said, in describing CUFSAP’s work. Our families are where we first learn about prevention. Hennig continued, “Our youth confront significant consequences related to their substance abuse here in Sullivan County:
• Three of our four school districts have in the past seen higher drop-out rates than the State average,
• One in eight high school youth (12%) report being hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend (doubles for those who used alcohol 6+ times in the past 30 days),
• One in twenty youths (4.8%) report being forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to (triples among those who used alcohol 6+ times in the past 30 days)”.
“This is taking place in a context where parents and other adults in the community are failing to make the connection.” Hennig cited a July 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) where 73% of parents disagree with the statement “It is OK for youth under 21 to drink at parties as long as they don’t drive,” but only one in three (35%) strongly agree with the statement, “I am concerned about underage drinking in our community.” Hennig is hopeful that results from a recently completed community survey will shed more light on this apparent disconnect.
Communities United for Substance Abuse Prevention (CUFSAP)
With this grant and continuing the work of CUFSAP, there are two goals:
• To build a strong network to support community efforts to prevent and reduce substance abuse among Sullivan County youth
• To increase our community protective factors while, at the same time, reducing our risk factors
Hennig says there are a variety of strategies being implemented to achieve these goals. ”We are seeing a growing awareness that there is a problem among our youth, and a growing willingness to engage on the part of parents and other adults in the community. We’ve improved access to resources and opportunities for community members to engage.
Some of the specific activities that this grant will support include “Health Rocks” which is a way for teens to reach out to middle school youth teaching them how to make positive choices for their lives. Teens will get paid for their time and some adult advisors are needed as well. Training is scheduled to take place Saturday, September 25, 2010 from 8:30 am – 4 pm at the Sugar River Valley Regional Technical School in Newport. In the Spring, UNH Cooperative extension will also be sponsoring “Guiding Good Choices” where parents can learn with other parents in a fun environment about ways to talk with their teens and how to develop tools to keep them on track. Contact UNH Cooperative Extension at 863-9200 to learn more. The grant will also support for a County Theatre Festival that will empower youth to make good choices for their lives. Participants will be working with theater professionals learning to perform on stage and to create positive messages for their peers. Performers Playground will be hosting the first of these on Nov 6th. Contact Shelly Hudson at 543-1296 to learn more.
“We have great examples all around us of parents who have stepped up to the plate and are being the wall of protection for their kids. It doesn’t always make them popular but they know one day their kids will thank them. We want parents throughout the County to be the ones drawing the lines for alcohol and drug use for their kids and not letting that line get erased by others on the outside,” said Hennig. ”Look, we know the stats: in the last 30 days, 38% of our High School teens were drinking alcohol, 26% were bingeing, 18% used marijuana and 22% were smoking. We also know that if parents will take the lead in teaching their children about the dangers of substance abuse, across the board reductions are significant. It all starts in Middle School. By 6th grade one in six have experimented with alcohol. By 8th grade the number rises to one in two. Talk to your kids by 10 and keep the conversation going throughout their teen years! Parents are the key to prevention efforts! We are moving things in the right direction but we still have a long way to go.”
Click here to read the White House Drug Policy Director’s Press Release.