Building Substance Abuse Prevention Programs

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

On August 5, 2011, I joined ten representatives from nine other agencies who were honored by the White House as Champions of Change for work to reduce drug use and its consequences, and for empowering and inspiring members of our communities.  The individuals and programs represented the four-pronged approach the Administration is taking to address substance abuse in our nation: prevention, treatment, recovery and interdiction. 

As a 30-year veteran in the substance abuse prevention field, I was thrilled to see drug abuse prevention listed as the first chapter in the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, issued by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in July.  The five Principles articulated in the Strategy encompass strategies that can be practiced by drug prevention coalitions and agencies across the Nation and which are based on modern research and best practices.

When it comes to substance abuse, and other unhealthy lifestyle choices, prevention is truly the key to long-term success.  Prevention includes messaging aimed at children, positive youth development programs, and alternative activities for youth.  But prevention is so much more.  It is creating community norms that eschew substance abuse by youth and adults; neighborhoods working collaboratively towards crime reduction; households where children learn to identify and resist negative influences. 

We must work together to build prevention capacity across systems.  We can foster healthy individuals and safe communities by joining our community’s efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences.  Our agency’s goal is to integrate substance abuse prevention into every institution, business, home and heart in our community.

To quote Robert Kennedy, “Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills - against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence... Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope…”

Cindy Schaider is the Executive Director of the Casa Grande Alliance, a community-based drug abuse prevention coalition.

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