Friday, August 23, 2013

Statewide drug abuse prevention program eliminated

In 2011, Washington voters approved Initiative 1183 that increased the availability of liquor in our communities including among youth.  Though no liquor revenue was earmarked for underage drinking prevention, voters were assured that stores would check IDs.  What was not anticipated was the amount of liquor theft that would occur.  Stolen liquor often ends up in the hands of minors

In 2012, Washington voters approved Initiative 502 that will increase the availability of marijuana in our communities including among youth.  Though underage marijuana use prevention is to receive some of the anticipated revenue, prevention funding is needed now if we are serious about preventing youth use.  I-502 revenue will not cover all of our state’s prevention needs. 

That’s why it’s surprising and disheartening that the Washington State Legislature eliminated a statewide, evidence-based substance abuse prevention program during this year’s session.  The Community Mobilization program helped communities throughout our state address local problems that contributed to youth drug use.  Instead of increasing funding for youth substance abuse prevention during a time of major drug policy changes that will negatively impact youth, lawmakers chose just the opposite.

Community Mobilization was part of the Department of Commerce (healthy kids who are at low risk for dropping out of school are good for the economy) and here is a letter from the Deputy Director to stakeholders. 

August 20, 2013

Dear Community Mobilization contractors, policy board chairs, policy board members, and community stakeholders:

I wish to express my deep appreciation to each of you for your service to our great State of Washington over the past 24 years.

While I do not have the history with the program that you have, please know that I value the efforts and progress which were made in solving the problems of substance abuse and violence in every county in the state. I know from reading the reports and talking with your program manager, Ramona Leber, that you affected real change in people's lives and in your individual counties.

The Strengthening Families Program data alone proved that the intervention of a seven-week class where parents and youth came together and learned to run family meetings, as well as how to respectfully speak and listen to one another, proved to result in less family tension.  Research indicates this reduces problematic behaviors. 

Equally impressive are the ways in which your program design engaged local community stakeholders from various sectors in looking at data and thoughtfully selecting evidence-based programs and strategies. Community Mobilizers showed leadership coordinating the National Drug Take Back effort, successfully bringing 3,000 community members together to provide input to Governor Locke’s School Safety Summit, participating in the “Let's Draw the Line” state campaign to reduce underage drinking, and worked side-by-side with schools and community groups to prevent youth use of marijuana and other drugs.  The Meth Action Teams served as an impressive example of the power of linking prevention, intervention, and suppression efforts to solve what had been an out-of-control drug problem wreaking havoc on our communities. Under the combined leadership of the county Community Mobilization coordinator and the county Sheriff, these teams changed policies around precursor drug availability and, as a result, the problem of meth labs in Washington’s homes virtually disappeared.

For many of you, the Community Mobilization grant was not just a grant; it was a passion and a calling. You understood the importance of training and created a comprehensive curriculum, "The Art and Science of Community Organizing" for prevention professionals. You valued cultural competency and provided training that resulted in greater cultural awareness and formed true working relationships with diverse partners. 

You worked to leverage every substance abuse and violence prevention dollar wisely and worked collaboratively with the Washington State Prevention Redesign Initiative, the Washington State Family Policy Council Public Health and Safety Networks, and numerous other initiatives to make the community a safer place. Ms. Leber also noted that when the federal funds were eliminated and state funds reduced, you made the collective decision to keep every county funded so that all residents in Washington State could continue to have access to Community Mobilization programming and coordination. 

Your work has resulted in healthier youth, families, and communities. On behalf of the Department of Commerce and the citizens of Washington State, I thank you for your years of service.

Dan McConnon
Deputy Director

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