After 6 Years of Prevention Work, We are Seeing Results

Alcohol, tobacco and other drug use among Rio Grande County’s youth has decreased, according to a comparison made by the Rio Grande Prevention
Partners (RGPP) of the 2006 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) with the 2012 HKCS. RGPP is a coalition addressing youth substance use. RGPP has
administered the HKCS at the Monte Vista and Del Norte School Districts every year (except 2011) since 2006.

The HKCS assesses “students’ involvement in a wide range of health and risk behaviors as well as students’ attitudes about, and exposure to, a set of risk and protective factors that have been shown to affect these “behaviors”, according to the assessment document. The HKCS was undertaken to establish a baseline of youth substance use in the county, especially with alcohol, with subsequent surveys used to assess changes in their use after various prevention efforts were implemented by the coalition. Alcohol is the drug of choice for our youth. Rio Grande County has had a juvenile alcohol violation arrest rate higher than the state rate 13 out of the previous 18 years,1999-2007, (source: Uniform Crime Reports).

The drugs showing a decrease include the five most prevalently used drugs which are alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, inhalants, and prescription drugs. There has also been a decrease in the use of cocaine, heroin, meth, ecstasy and steroids.

Alcohol continues to be the number one drug of choice with just over half (52%)
of youth in grades 6-12 in 2012 having had at least one drink of alcohol in their lifetime. Alcohol use tends to go up in each grade, but the HKCS indicates a
decrease in the rate of the increase in all grades except the 12th grade. Seven (7) percent less youth drank alcohol in their lifetime when comparing 2006 HKCS to the 2012 HKCS. Decreases have also occurred in less youth having their first drink (17% decrease), and less youth binge drinking (5% decrease). On the
survey, binge drinking is defined as 5 or more drinks during an occasion.

As shown in the table on the right: Marijuana is the second most prevalently used drug at 28% in 2012. Lifetime use and 30 Day use of marijuana both decreased. Prescription drug use, tobacco, and inhalants, the three remaining prevalently used drugs, are close in the amount of use by youth. Use of all of
these drugs decreased from 2006 as shown in table. The percentage of students using cocaine, heroin, meth, ecstasy and steroids in their lifetime has fortunately
been very low. The use of these drugs has also decreased as shown on the table.

The Coalition has worked since March 2006 to reduce alcohol and other drug
use among Rio Grande County’s youth. In the early years, the activities included bringing key people together to work on this issue, gathering data, assessing
resources, and developing a strategic prevention plan. The county received the State Incentive Grant (2006-2010) which initiated the formation of a community
coalition to address this issue. The strategic prevention plan includes proven, successful community-based prevention strategies aimed at preventing and
reducing drug use amongst the county’s youth. Change will be seen when enough strategies are in place and sustained across the community.

To continue the effort, the Del Norte School District received one of the coveted five-year Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Grants in 2010 from the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health. An agreement is in place between the Del Norte School Board and RGPP to
operate under this funding. The coalition utilizes the following community based strategies: compliance checks, responsible seller-server training (TiPS), yearly
media campaigns, newspaper articles, advertisements, providing written materials at numerous locations and venues, presentations, prevention education (evidence -based alcohol prevention education in elementary through high school grades), Being BrainWise, a parenting education initiative, support of community youth programs and school prevention activities, and high school youth engagement. Each year the coalition assesses the strategies being used to determine if they need to be continued, implemented differently and incorporate latest information and additional strategies into the efforts. It’s important for the coalition to stay current and effective to address youth substance use, especially underage drinking.

Fortunately, the coalition work is creating change in the right direction. However, change, real change, takes time. In order to build upon the progress
that has been made, these prevention efforts need to continue, be embraced and supported by the community.

To view the Charts and the Entire Article, click here.