This advertisement was posted in liquor store windows and on alcohol packaging as part of Safe Communities Coalition's Know the Law Campaign in 2010.
Community Coalitions Prevent Underage Drinking
In 2003, a high school principal in rural Hunterdon County, NJ, learned that his junior high school-aged son was given alcohol at a party. This and other reports of social hosting—the practice of parents supplying children with alcohol or making it accessible at home—led the principal and other community leaders to join together and create Hunterdon Safe Homes, a group dedicated to reducing the social availability of alcohol to youth.
The group involved schools, parents, law enforcement, and others in their efforts to address the access by minors to alcohol as well as the perceived lack of harm of underage drinking and parental approval. This collaboration led to the development of the Safe Homes directory , where parents could identify themselves as parents committed to hosting alcohol-free gatherings for youth.
Drug Free Communities Support Program
While Hunterdon Safe Homes made significant progress with limited resources, there was still more work to do. In 2009, with help of a Drug Free Communities Support Program (DFC) grant, they changed their name to the Safe Communities Coalition and expanded their reach into the community. Sponsored by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and managed and monitored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), DFC grants harness the power of community coalitions to reduce and ultimately prevent substance use among young people.
Safe Communities Coalition Project Director Lesley Gabel said they closely followed the DFC model and received training through the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America's (CADCA) National Coalition Institute . Founded in 2002, the Institute helps strengthen the capacity of community coalitions by providing training on a variety of topic areas including effective community problem-solving strategies, assessing local substance use related problems, and developing comprehensive plans to address them. Ms. Gabel credits the DFC grant for helping the coalition expand recruitment efforts within various sectors of the community.
"The DFC grant gave us a structure, a prevention model, funding, and the training tools we needed to develop a high-functioning coalition," said Ms. Gabel. "Many people didn't understand the complexities of our local problems, but when they learned what we were trying to do, they joined us."
In 2010, with the additional support from the DFC program resources, and collaboration between local business owners, Safe Communities Coalition launched the Know the Law campaign. The campaign included signs posted in local liquor store windows and on alcohol packaging. The signs informed patrons about the repercussions of providing alcohol to minors: a $1,000 fine and up to 6 months in jail. Subsequent initiatives included a social norms campaign and a highly successful collaboration with local law enforcement and the prosecutor's office to increase private property ordinance enactment from 8% to 35%. Many ordinances were modified to include loss or delay of driver's license for teens found drinking.
The coalition also invited young people to join a new youth coalition. Youth were encouraged to get involved by organizing school assemblies, participating in community service, and making public service announcements. "Involving young people has allowed us to develop strategies that will work for them," Ms. Gabel said. "They can also deliver a credible message to their peers and encourage teens to talk about these issues."
In 2012, the Coalition expanded to include Somerset County, NJ. Today, the Safe Homes directory is online with more than 1,000 parents pledging to provide alcohol-free gatherings for their teens. The coalition has also added prevention of other drug use to its mission.
This Safe Communities Coalition travelling advertisement focused on youth and perceptions of social acceptance of underage drinking.
DFC Program Success
Like the Safe Communities Coalition, DFC programs across the country are working with local law enforcement to reduce underage alcohol and substance use. DFC programs are also facilitating local policy changes to effectively address the accessibility and availability of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Since the passage of the DFC Act in 1997, the DFC program has funded nearly 2,000 coalitions and mobilizes nearly 9,000 community volunteers nationwide.
According to a recent ONDCP-funded National Evaluation , in the past 8 years that DFC has been evaluated, 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 DFC National Evaluation indicate a 16 percent reduction in alcohol use. High school-aged youth have reduced their use of alcohol by 9 percent.
"Collaboration is the key to the success of DFC Programs," said Charles Reynolds, Division Director of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) Division of Community Programs. "Collaboration is the key to the success of DFC Programs," said Mr. Reynolds. "Schools, community leaders, law enforcement, policy makers, parents, and youth must work together and leverage each other's strengths and resources in order to prevent underage alcohol and drug use in communities across the country."
Safe Communities Coalition will be recognized February 4-7, 2013, at CADCA's 2013 National Leadership Forum as the winner of CADCA's 2012 GOT OUTCOMES Coalition of Excellence Milestone Award . The award recognizes coalitions that show community-level changes that prove they are on the right track towards reaching their long-term goals.
SAMHSA will kick off CADCA's conference at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD, on February 4, 2013 with SAMHSA's 9th Annual Prevention Day. SAMHSA's Prevention Day is an opportunity for DFC Program grantees and other SAMHSA program grantees to attend training workshops, network, and share best practices.
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