Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Preventing substance abuse in youths is a community effort


    Given the spate of tragic events—including the loss of several of our prized young people to situations that too often included substance abuse—the Blaine County Community Drug Coalition understands the community is looking to our organization for direction and solutions.
    First, to each of the families and friends of these young people, we keenly feel your loss and share our deepest sympathies. We are aware of the impact substance use by our youth has on the entire family, also frequently resulting in a lifelong challenge of addiction to or dependence on alcohol, prescription medicines or illicit drugs.  Many who struggle with substances are also dealing with anxiety, depression and other issues, which sadly contribute to lives challenged by social and family issues, as well as stigma. Our community must remove the stigma surrounding mental illness, substance abuse and addiction, and start looking at these issues from a public health perspective.

We do this work because we know how dangerous youth substance abuse is.

    The Drug Coalition was founded seven years ago by a group of citizens concerned about several losses not unlike what we have experienced these past two years. Crystal meth was the primary drug of concern as it was taking our youth through experimentation, addiction and suicide. It reminds us that every young person and each family’s challenges are equally valued and demand our collective support, as they are a part of the fabric of our community. When they suffer, we all suffer.
    Often the coalition path, to reduce substance use among our youth, is a lonely one. Sadly, tragedy makes us hyperaware of community challenges that wax and wane over time, but never go away. The Drug Coalition wants you, the concerned citizens, to help us make our community a safer, better place for our kids. Take time to learn about environmental policies and innovative programming aimed at decreasing access to substances and providing healthy alternatives to our youth. Get involved and stay involved in our efforts. Discover our partnerships with all the area schools, bringing drug education and awareness to the students in Blaine County. Open your minds to the science of addiction, genetics and the effects of substances on developing brains.
    We want and value your support as well as your questions and opposition. If the community gives us a chance through engagement, we can be more effective devising and implementing solutions to improve the health of our youth. Harness the shock and sadness to contribute to crafting change and allow us to achieve change created by the community and supported by the community.
    We challenge our young people to engage in the same dialogue about substances and the related issues in our community. Youth are the masters of their universe, and if we assume to make positive change without their engagement and support, we fail. Young people are also currently hyperaware and open to dialogue, as these losses bite them so deeply. Help us create support networks for our youth in need of someone to turn to.
    We invite you to our upcoming events to discuss the issues and our plans to make progress on our important mission. On Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Campus, we will hold a Young People’s Town Hall, exclusive to those under the age of 21, to discuss the issues facing young people and possible solutions to these issues. A second town hall for all interested adults and youth will take place two days later on Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m., also at the Community Campus in Hailey. Please join us at this meeting as we discuss our current and potential future strategies to reduce substance use by youth.  
    We do this work because we know how dangerous youth substance abuse is and we seek as wide of understanding and support as possible. Our success is directly related to the community’s involvement.  Follow us and our strategies on our website,, “like” us on Facebook at, follow us on Twitter @DrugCoalition, and request to be added to our email list to receive our newsletter by emailing


    Michael David is the executive director of the Blaine County Community Drug Coalition. He also serves on the Ketchum City Council.

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