Wednesday, November 12, 2008

County hires new drug coalition leader

Terry Basolo returns home to Hailey

Express Staff Writer

Terry Basolo is the new executive director of the Blaine County Community Drug Coalition. Photo by Dana DuGan

Terry Basolo can walk the streets of Hailey and recall his entire youth. Once the second-generation owner of Sawtooth Auto Sales in Hailey, Basolo has changed course and is now the new executive director of the Blaine County Community Drug Coalition.

He recently returned to the Wood River Valley after seven years in Hamilton, Mont., where he still has a home. While he was away, he graduated from Portland State University with a degree in political science and is in the process of earning his master's degree in public affairs from University of Washington.

"I was interested in coming back if I could find a position that fit my public affairs interest and that I could be passionate about," Basolo said. "It's such an interesting job. It's a huge problem. You can't solve it. You can only mitigate it."

The Community Drug Coalition's mission is to improve the health of the community by decreasing alcohol and drug use by youth. The coalition was founded two years ago in response to meth use in the valley by a group of concerned citizens, educators and officials.

When he started last week, Basolo was offered a corner in the sheriff's office at the new Blaine County Public Safety Facility. Still living out of boxes and busy with schoolwork, he nonetheless began his first week of work at a good clip.

First up: the group needs to complete its non-profit status application and pursue grant money and private donations. The coalition was also a co-sponsor of the Community Health Conference with St. Luke's Center for Community Healthy held at the Community Campus last Saturday. That conference included a panel discussion with members of the Blaine County Youth Auxiliary Council.

"Based on the impressive and open dialogue with the panel of teens, the problem (with drug and alcohol abuse) is at least as severe as when I was growing up," Basolo said. "Our goal at the Community Drug Coalition is to make sure we're doing everything we can to create dynamic kids. I believe a hugely important component of this is a keen interest to not just listen to ideas and dialogue but to collaborate with our youth. The work needs to be done."

Part of what helps the Coalition stay focused on the trends is the Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey, given each year by the Idaho Department of Education.

Based on the most recent survey, from 2003 to 2007 the incidences of "fighting, rape, suicide, drugs and alcohol are all trending upwards statewide and locally," Basolo said.

In particular marijuana use is up 18 percent and tobacco and chewing tobacco use has doubled.

Basolo isn't carrying the weight of the responsibility alone however. The governing board is made up of Sheriff Walt Femling, St. Luke's Center for Community Health Manager Erin Pfaeffle, County Commissioner Larry Schoen, Hailey Elementary Principal Tom Bailey, probation officer Teresa Espedal Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas, Magistrate Judge Mark Ingram, Public Defender Dan Dolan and community member Travis Reed. Femling and Bailey are its co-chairs.

As well, there are 109 local organizations involved including the Blaine County School District, Youth Adults Konnections, The Advocates, the Judicial Commission and the Center for Community Health.

Mentoring is an integral part of the success of any anti-drug program and among other plans Basolo hopes to develop an inventory of qualified adults to make up a volunteer mentor core similar to the Big Brother-Big Sister program.

"One-on-one is incredibly successful," Basolo said. "My own experience growing up here was with a single working parent. I made a lot of bad choices, but if we can help one kid from making those same choices it'll make my job worthwhile."

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