Spotlight: Drug-Free Communities Support Program & Community Coalitions

Last week, one of our office’s most important and evidence-based programs convened leaders in substance use prevention from across the Nation. The Drug-Free Communities Support program (DFC) hosted its annual New Grantee meeting in Washington, D.C., giving us an opportunity to discuss a fundamental part of our work at ONDCP: prevention. 

Director Kerlikowske Meets with Drug Free Communities Support Program New Grantees

ONDCP Director Kerlikowske meets with new grantees of the Drug-Free Communities Support program (DFC) at their annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2013. December 13, 2013.

This year, we awarded $79.2 million in DFC grants to more than 600 coalitions across the country. These grants provide community coalitions with support to prevent and reduce youth substance use. We are proud to work with our partner in substance use prevention, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), to give these coalitions the training and infrastructure they need to successfully reduce youth substance use.

Substance use is a huge public health problem in our country, costing us in 2007 more than $193 billion in costs related to criminal justice, health, and lost productivity.

Preventing drug use before it begins is a cost-effective, common-sense approach to promoting safe and healthy communities. Research shows an association between drug use and traffic crash deaths, lost productivity and poor academic performance. Illicit drug use also contributes to HIV-transmission rates and puts children at risk for abuse and neglect. Preventing substance use and dependence before they begin can save lives and cut costs related to healthcare and criminal justice. DFCs help establish networks of trained, dedicated local leaders who make a difference by building healthy communities and reducing youth substance use.  

What is the Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFC)?

A Federal grant program that provides funding to community-based coalitions that organize to prevent youth substance use.  Since the passage of the DFC Act in 1997, the DFC program has funded nearly 2,000 coalitions and currently mobilizes nearly 9,000 community volunteers across the country. The philosophy behind the DFC program is that local drug problems require local solutions.  With a small Federal investment, the DFC program doubles the amount of funding through the DFC program’s match requirement, to address youth substance use.  Recent evaluation data indicate that where DFC dollars are invested, youth substance use is lower.  Over the life of the DFC program, youth living in DFC communities have experienced reductions in alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use. 

In the past eight 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% reduction in alcohol use, 27% reduction in tobacco use, and 23% reduction in marijuana use.  High school-aged youth have reduced their use of alcohol by 9%, tobacco by 16%, and marijuana by 7% in DFC-funded communities.  DFC-funded coalitions are actively engaged in facilitating prescription drug take-back programs in conjunction with local law enforcement, as well as local policy change to effectively address the accessibility and availability of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  See the 2012 National Evaluation Report.

In an increasingly challenging media environment, now, more than ever, the DFC program is needed in communities across the country to help prevent drug use and reduce its consequences.  Drug problems manifest in local communities and show up in our schools, churches, health centers, and in our homes.  The DFC program helps local leaders organize to identify the youth drug issues unique to their communities and develop the infrastructures necessary to effectively prevent and respond to the disease of addiction. 

What does the Drug-Free Communities Support program do?

The primary purpose of the DFC program is to: strengthen collaboration among community entities; and reduce substance use among youth. DFC grantees are required to work toward these two goals as the primary focus of their Federally-funded effort.  Grants awarded through the DFC program are intended to support established community-based coalitions capable of effecting community-level change. For the purposes of the DFC program, a coalition is defined as a community-based formal arrangement for cooperation and collaboration among groups or sectors of a community in which each group retains its identity, but all agree to work together toward a common goal of building a safe, healthy, and drug-free community. Coalitions receiving DFC funds are expected to work with leaders within their communities to identify and address local youth substance use problems and create sustainable community-level change through environmental strategies.

What does the Drug-Free Communities Support program fund?

The DFC program funds one thing: community coalitions that have formed to address youth substance use.  Communities often understand that local stakeholders and citizens hold the key to solving local problems.  In realizing this, community-based coalitions are created every day in this country.  A typical DFC budget submission includes the salary and benefits of an individual that ensures effective day-to-day operations of the coalition, training and technical assistance for the coalition, travel, and prevention efforts that place emphasis on environmental strategies .  DFC funding can be considered the financial support required to further leverage funding to support the various strategies a community needs in order to solves its youth substance use problems.

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