Youth substance abuse remains a public health concern in states across the Nation. In Wisconsin, an estimated 9% of youth aged 12–17 years used illicit drugs during the past 30 days and 14% used alcohol during the past 30 days in 2010–2011.1 Recognizing the need to take action against the growing threat in their county, the Marathon County Alcohol & Other Drug (AOD) Partnership launched the Pushback Against Drug Abuse initiative in May 2013.
The Marathon County AOD Partnership is a substance abuse prevention coalition with a membership of more than 250 individuals and organizations. The AOD Partnership includes schools, law enforcement, local government, health care professionals, and community organizations. The AOD Partnership is funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Drug Free Communities (DFC) Program, which supports community-based coalitions that address local youth substance use and its related consequences. DFC community coalitions use evidence-informed strategies that have been shown to be effective in reducing substance use.
Using the Collective Impact Model to guide their efforts, the AOD Partnership implemented Pushback Against Drug Abuse, a public awareness initiative. The Collective Impact Model relies on 5 elements—a common agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and a strong backbone organization—that allow for a coalition to move beyond simple collaboration and work together to effect change in the community.
The Pushback Against Drug Abuse initiative was built on 3 simple principles: raise awareness about the scope and burden of illicit drug use in the community; ensure resources for prevention, treatment, and enforcement are available; and engage the community in efforts to address drug abuse. Pushback Against Drug Abuse includes AOD Partnership efforts as well as efforts developed and implemented by community members, encompassing all events and activities intended to combat drug abuse in Marathon County. For example, the Marathon County Public Library system hosted an educational series to raise awareness about the scope of the drug problem and share how all levels of the community play a part in prevention, treatment, and recovery.
To launch the initiative, the AOD Partnership held press conferences to educate and engage the community and conducted a media campaign using promotional efforts, public service announcements, and social media. Over the course of 2013, a total of 5 press conferences were held, 1 in conjunction with the Wisconsin Attorney General. Through these efforts, a number of community groups, including Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, faith-based women’s groups, the Chamber of Commerce, and nonprofit community organizations, became involved with Pushback Against Drug Abuse. Neighborhood groups have coordinated with law enforcement about the use of tip lines and distributed information in their neighborhoods; students have implemented drug education programs in schools; medical professionals have been offered training by law enforcement and treatment professionals; and local government has worked to identify and secure sources of funding to combat the drug abuse problem.
Since the launch of the initiative, the AOD Partnership has seen increased attendance at meetings and trainings, increased their media presence, and distributed informational packets to Marathon County residents. In November 2013, the AOD Partnership and Pushback Against Drug Abuse were selected to participate in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies Service to Science Award, which aims to enhance the evaluation capacity of innovative substance abuse programs across the country. Overall, DFC-funded communities, like Marathon County, have seen a reduction in alcohol and drug use among youth. In 2005–2012, there was a 23% reduction in marijuana use and a 20% reduction in alcohol use in middle school youth in DFC communities overall. Among high school students, a 10% reduction in marijuana use and a 4% reduction in alcohol use were observed.2 Community coalitions like Marathon County’s are valuable tools in the elimination of youth substance abuse.
1 http://samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2k11State/NSDUHsae2011/NSDUHsaeWI2011.pdf [PDF - 82 KB]
2 DFC National Evaluation: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/drug-free-communities-support-program