• Learn How to Transform Your Community and Change Lives

    In my home state of New Mexico, substance abuse and addiction present serious challenges to our families and way of life.

    The destructive influence of drugs and crime that threaten our communities require a holistic approach and dedication – and this means coming together to help those in need who suffer from addiction, to help prevent youth from ever using, and to stand opposed to those who traffic these dangerous substances. This is not a unique challenge to New Mexico, but one that cities and towns across America confront. In my district, one of the organizations that has been successful in getting results has been the Taos Alive Coalition, and one of the things that has aided them in their missions has been the grant they received from the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program.

    The Taos Alive Coalition came together when a collaboration of the Taos and regional programs applied for funding through the Drug-Free Communities Support Program in 2010. In the past five years Taos Alive has worked on numerous fronts, including prescription drugs, alcohol, and synthetic drugs. Its prescription drug initiative has been one of the most successful initiatives to date – establishing the permanent drop boxes in our community and successfully assisting with bi-annual Prescription Drug Take Back events. Before the Taos Alive Coalition formed with DFC funding, Take Back Taos County collected less than 3 pounds of drugs. With the involvement of Taos Alive, they estimate that more than 65 pounds was collected. Further, Taos Alive—whose members include medical professionals from government and private practice--created opioid prescribing guidelines in the local emergency room and is working on community opioid prescribing guidelines. Youth media prescription drug training is given to all Taos High School youth & school staff in Taos County; and they have helped several schools to create prescription drug policy & procedures.

    Through these community efforts, Taos Alive is improving its community and making it a safer place to live. And it is able to do this so effectively, in part, because of the Drug-Free Communities Grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Since the passage of the DFC Act in 1997, the DFC Program has funded more than 2,000 coalitions and currently mobilizes nearly 9,000 community volunteers across the country. Grantees establish and strengthen collaboration among communities – public and private non-profit agencies – as well as Federal, state, local, and tribal governments to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance use among youth and, over time, reduce substance abuse among adults by addressing the factors in a community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse.

    The FY 2015 DFC Request for Applications (RFA) has been released and is available online. In recognition of how transformative these grants are, and to assist community groups with the application process, ONDCP is hosting workshops on the technical aspects of filling out grant applications. While these workshops are not mandatory, they will offer guidance on the process that many groups that are less experienced filling out grant applications may find useful. Workshops will be held on:

    Tuesday, January 27, 2015
    Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown
    2600 Louisiana Boulevard Northeast
    Albuquerque, NM  87110
    Check-in8:00 a.m. 
    Workshop: 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
    Native American/American Indian Support Workshop: 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.
    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    Atlanta Airport Marriott
    4711 Best Road
    Atlanta, GA 30337
    Friday, February 6, 2015 (after CADCA’s National Leadership Forum)
    Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center
    201 Waterfront St.
    National Harbor, MD 20745


    A videotaped version of this workshop is also available on the ONDCP website. Register for the workshops and find information about the Drug Free Communities Program.

    I’m proud of the work I have seen from the DFC grantees in my district, and know that they are succeeding around the country. A DFC grant is one way for communities to come together to fight back against the influence of substance abuse and addiction. Commitment and collaboration are essential tools for change, and working together we can help our family, friends, and towns heal and thrive.

    Congressman Ben Ray Luján represents New Mexico's Third Congressional District. 


  • Treatment, Recovery and the ACA: Watch Live Weds., Jan 21 at 2:30 p.m.

    Tonight, when President Obama delivers the State of the Union, he will share how the Affordable Care Act has made quality, affordable health coverage available to millions of Americans. The Affordable Care Act also provides one of the largest  expansions of mental health and substance use disorder coverage in a generation by requiring insurers to provide mental health and substance use disorder benefits at parity with coverage for any other disease.

    Tomorrow, we will explore how the Affordable Care Act is changing the way substance use disorders are treated in America.           

    On Wednesday, January 21 at 2:30 p.m. EST, we will convene experts from the substance use disorder treatment and recovery fields for a meeting titled “Treating Substance Use Disorders Today: Access, Recovery, and the Affordable Care Act”. 

    Watch this meeting live starting at 2:30 p.m. EST on whitehouse.gov/live.

    During this meeting, which will be co-hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), we will hear from a panel of experts and from real people who are able to access treatment and recovery support services for themselves or family members.

    If you can’t join us in person, we invite you to host a viewing party. You can register your viewing party here. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by including #ACA4Recovery in your tweets all day tomorrow.

    Learn more about what the Affordable Care Act means for behavioral health with this infographic from our partners at SAMHSA:


    SAMHSA Enrollment and Outreach Resources


  • Securing our Nation’s Caribbean Border

    In 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order that expanded the purview of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico to seek advice and develop recommendations on policies for the island that promote job creation, education, health care, clean energy, economic development, and public safety.  Addressing these issues has been an on-going effort for the Task force and the Administration. Today, the President announced the release of the 2015 Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy, a major step forward on matters of utmost importance to the people of Puerto Rico –  public health and public safety.

    By delivering on this important recommendation, the Obama Administration, in an effort spearheaded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, seeks to substantially reduce the threat posed by drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, and associated violence to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    In its 2011 report to the President, the Task Force concluded that both the capacity of local law enforcement and the efforts of the Federal agencies charged with public safety in Puerto Rico require a significant amount of attention from Federal and local stakeholders.

    Strengthening Public Safety

    Public safety is a major challenge in Puerto Rico.  During the Task Force’s public hearings, residents of Puerto Rico raised concerns about crime and the law enforcement response. The homicide rate in Puerto Rico is alarmingly high. Puerto Rico’s geographic location, with approximately 300 miles of unprotected shoreline, makes it especially vulnerable to transnational crime. Located along the Mona Passage, a heavily used shipping lane between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the region has become an increasingly important point for drug trafficking between South America and the continental United States and Europe.

    Drug traffickers have long used this region as a transshipment point.  Recently however, the nature of the trafficking has changed.  Due to stepped-up law enforcement efforts, drug traffickers have decreased air activity and increased maritime shipping.  There has also been an increase in detected maritime transport of cocaine loads to the Puerto Rico area.  According to the Puerto Rico Police Department, high homicide rates can be attributed to power struggles and turf wars among violent gangs and drug trafficking organizations whose members compete to supply the demand for both illegal and diverted legal drugs.  These groups frequently use intimidation, violence, and murder to gain and retain control of retail drug markets.

    Cocaine is the principal drug threat and a source of associated violence throughout the Caribbean. The trafficking threat and violence is also associated with marijuana, heroin, and prescription drugs.  Illicit trafficking is a highly fluid enterprise.  The documented cocaine flow from the source zone to the United States via the Caribbean—including Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Eastern Caribbean countries—has more than doubled in the past three years, from 38 metric tons (MT) in 2011, to 59 MT in 2012 and 91 MT in 2013, according to the interagency Consolidated Counterdrug Database. This marks the highest documented cocaine flow since 2003.

    Unlawful firearms trafficking also poses a threat to public safety and contributes to the high homicide rate and drug-related violence.   The danger posed to children by the drug trade and gang violence continues to increase.  Criminal incidents that frequently occur in the school system include violence, vandalism, and property theft.  As drug trafficking activities increase in the region, so do related financial crimes.  Trafficking organizations have displayed limited sophistication in money laundering.   Rudimentary schemes to use the drug proceeds, either laundered through the financial system or transported to foreign locations, have been used in bulk-cash smuggling operations.  These conditions create an environment conducive to a broad range of corruption activities.  

    In light of these challenges, the Task Force recommended that the various Federal agencies with security and law enforcement responsibilities convene a formal, interagency process of coordination and collaboration regarding Puerto Rico’s security and safety.  Improvements in public safety would benefit the people of Puerto Rico and help in the broader effort to combat drug trafficking throughout the region.

    Federal Response to Date

    Cooperative partnerships, expanded bilateral agreements, and training programs are essential force-multipliers that help counter the transnational drug threat.  Federal agencies must continue to leverage established partnerships among themselves and with local law enforcement agencies to capitalize on the unique authorities and capabilities of each organization.  Building and improving bilateral and multilateral partnerships through law enforcement agreements, professional exchanges, training, and joint operations is essential to reducing illicit drug flow through the region.

    In response to increases in drug trafficking and related crime, Federal law enforcement agencies have expanded their efforts in the region.  The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have devoted resources to address drug-related violent crime on the islands and have coordinated with Federal and local partners to confront this ongoing threat to public safety. 

    2015 Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy

    Today’s announcement demonstrates the Obama Administration’s commitment to strengthen Puerto Rico’s public safety.  The 2015 Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy (Caribbean Strategy) articulates the U.S. framework for reducing the threats associated with drugs at the border and is guided by the following strategic objectives:

    Strategic Objectives

    1. Enhance intelligence and information-sharing capabilities and processes associated with the Caribbean border.
    2. Interdict illicit drugs and drug proceeds at and between U.S. ports of entry in the Caribbean.
    3. Interdict illicit drugs and illicit drug proceeds in the air and maritime domains in and around the Caribbean border; maximize evidence and intelligence collection to support criminal investigations leading to associated and higher echelon networks.
    4. Disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations operating in and around the Caribbean border.
    5. Substantially reduce the level of drug related violent crime in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    6. Strengthen communities and reduce the demand for drugs.

    The Caribbean Strategy outlines supporting actions and identifies the Federal agencies responsible for coordinating and executing these actions.  To ensure effective implementation, the Caribbean Strategy provides indicators to develop baselines and enable status tracking.

    This Caribbean Strategy is aligned with the Task Force recommendation, and it complies with the report language accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (P.L. 113-76) (Appropriations Act), initiated by Puerto Rico’s congressional representative, Congressman Pedro Pierluisi, which requires that the Office of National Drug Control Policy submit to Congress a biennial Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy.






  • Highlights from 2014

    2014 has been a year of significant developments for drug policy in our country as well as at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). This year, President Obama nominated Michael Botticelli to Director of National Drug Control Policy. If confirmed, he will become the first person in recovery from a substance use disorder to ever hold the position. We made progress against the opioid epidemic as prescription drug abuse and overdose prevention efforts expanded across the country. A significant number of states passed overdose prevention laws and more police departments began to equip officers with naloxone, the life-saving overdose reversal drug. Supporting these efforts, the Department of Justice released a naloxone toolkit to help increase its use by law enforcement agencies and the Attorney General urged federal law enforcement agencies to identify, train and equip with naloxone personnel who may interact with victims of opioid overdose. For the first time since 1999, the number of deaths involving prescription drugs declined, and teens reported lower rates of drug, alcohol and cigarette use. We also hosted a historic event on recovery at the White House during National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.

    Here are highlights from 2014:


    Attorney General Eric Holder speaks in support of the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act, which would give judges more discretion in determining appropriate sentences for people convicted of certain federal drug crimes, and provide a new mechanism for some individuals – who were sentenced under outdated laws and guidelines – to petition judges for sentencing reductions that are consistent with the Fair Sentencing Act.


    Mexican authorities announce the capture of Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera, the alleged head of a drug-running empire that spans continents.  The criminal activity Guzman allegedly directed contributed to the death and destruction of millions of lives across the globe through drug addiction, violence, and corruption. The operation led by the Mexican government is a significant victory and milestone in U.S.-Mexican efforts to combat drug trafficking, violence and illicit activity along our shared border.


    The UN officially endorses recovery. A resolution on the importance of recovery proposed by the United States at the 57th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was approved on March 21st in Vienna, Austria.  This resolution marks the first time in the more than 50-year history of the global anti-drug regime that the concept of recovery was formally accepted and supported by United Nations Member States.


    The 2014 Advocates for Action come to The White House to meet with Acting Director Botticelli and discuss their work and advocacy on drug policy. Meet them and hear their stories:


    Acting Director Botticelli speaks at the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission in Washington, D.C. The 34 Member Nations from the Organization of American States gathered to discuss an array of public health and drug policy issues, including drug courts and other alternatives to incarceration and the growing challenge of local distribution of drugs within Latin America. Acting Director Botticelli discusses the disease of addiction, the expanding access to drug treatment under the Affordable Care Act, and Federal monitoring of state marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington. 


    In response to rising rates of heroin use and related overdose deaths, ONDCP hosts the Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Summit at The White House, where Acting Director Botticelli, Attorney General Holder and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin rally around our shared goal of dramatically reducing the rate of heroin and prescription drug abuse across the country.


    ONDCP releases our 2014 National Drug Control Strategy at a substance abuse treatment center in Roanoke, Virginia, where Acting Director Botticelli also tours the Hurt Park neighborhood, which was the site of a successful alternative policing program called Drug Market Intervention. The same day, Acting Director Botticelli meets with a community social services center called Total Action For Progress, which supports young people and others in recovery and connects them with employment.


    President Obama announces his intent to nominate Michael Botticelli as Director of National Drug Control Policy. If confirmed, he will become the first person in recovery from a substance use disorder to hold this position.


    The White House hosts Recovery Month event.  NFL legend Cris Carter; Christina Huffington; veteran reporter and author Ruben Castaneda; Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Mayor Tim Wilson; and television news anchor Laurie Dhue speak to a packed auditorium at The White House about their recovery experiences, and where the recovery movement is going in the future.


    ONDCP announces the addition of 26 counties and cities in 11 states to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which facilitates collaboration between state, local and federal law enforcement. ONDCP also announces $84 million in Drug-Free Communities Support Program grants for 680 community coalitions across the country.


    ONDCP and the Drug Enforcement Administration educate community agencies about implementing drug disposal programs. In 2014, the Administration issued new regulations to create convenient, legal avenues for safe, environmentally-friendly disposal of unneeded prescription drugs. This is one of the four pillars outlined in the 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, and is critical to curbing the national opioid epidemic. Thanks to the new regulations, individuals will have more convenient and environmentally responsible means to dispose of unused prescription drugs.


    President Obama declares December as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. Throughout this month, ONDCP is working with the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to raise awareness of drugged driving and encourage communities to engage in prevention activities


  • Updated Infographic: Overdose Prevention, State by State

    This August, we released an infographic showing states (and the District of Columbia) with laws allowing for the prescribing and administration of naloxone and/or criminal protections for bystanders who seek emergency assistance. Since then, even more states have enacted such laws, and we have updated the infographic to reflect current state laws as of December 2014. Please download and share:


    Download the PDF. An explanation of the graphic is below. 

    UPDATE (As of November 2014):

    Twenty-three states (CA, CO, CT, GA, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, UT, VT, VA, WA, WI) have statutes which allow for “third-party” prescriptions of naloxone i.e. the prescription can be written to friend, relative or person in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose.  Virginia only allows third-party prescriptions through a provisional pilot program.  Three additional states (IN, LA, MO) allow prescriptions of naloxone to qualified first responders (e.g. law enforcement, EMT, firefighter).  One additional state (DE) allows prescriptions of naloxone to peace officers who have received training.

    Fifteen states (CA, CO, CT, GA, MI, MN, NJ, NM, NC, OH, PA, TN, UT, VT, WI) have statutes which protect prescribers from civil liability actions. 

    Eighteen states (CA, CO, CT, GA, IN, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, PA, TN, UT, VT, WI) have statutes which protect prescribers from criminal liability actions.

    Twenty states (CA, CO, CT, GA, KY, MI, MN, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OK, OR, PA, RI, TN, UT, VT, VA, WI) and the District of Columbia have statutes which protect lay persons from civil liability for administering naloxone to someone believed to be experiencing an opioid induced overdose. In Virginia, this protection only applies to persons that are participating in the provisional pilot program.  Two additional states (IN, LA) provide civil liability protections to first responders.  One additional state (DE) provides civil liability protections to peace officers who have received training.

    Twenty-four states (CA, CO, CT, GA, IL, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, TN, UT, VT, VA, WA, WI) and the District of Columbia have statutes which protect lay persons from criminal liability for administering naloxone to someone believed to be experiencing an opioid induced overdose.  In Virginia, this protection applies to persons that are participating in the provisional pilot program.  Three additional states (IN, LA, MO) provide criminal liability protections to first responders.  One additional state (DE) provides criminal liability protections to peace officers who have received training.

    Twenty-one states (AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, LA, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NM, NY, NC, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI) and the District of Columbia have statutes which prevent charge or prosecution for possession of a controlled substance and/or paraphernalia for persons who seek medical/emergency assistance for someone that is experiencing an opioid induced overdose.  Additionally, in UT and IN, evidence of providing assistance to someone experiencing an opioid overdose can be presented as a mitigating factor at sentencing to a conviction for possession of a controlled substance and/or paraphernalia.  UT allows evidence of providing assistance to someone experiencing an overdose to be used as an affirmative defense to an allegation of possession of a controlled substance and/or paraphernalia.

  • New Data Announced: Declines in Teen Opioid, Cigarette and Alcohol Use

    Today, Acting Director Michael Botticelli joins Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse along with Dr. Lloyd Johnston and Dr. Richard Miech of the University of Michigan to announce the results of the 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. The survey, conducted earlier this year by scientists at the University of Michigan, tracks annual drug use and attitudes among 8th, 10th, and 12th-grade students.

    There is good news in the data announced today, which reflect declines in youth drug and alcohol use across the board.

    Cigarette and alcohol use--and prescription pain relievers misuse—have all declined since 2013.  Marijuana use rates did not increase in 2014, and, among 10th graders, both past-year and daily marijuana use declined by 8 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Past year use of synthetic marijuana, dangerous drugs that have cut the potential of far too many young people, is now down among 12th graders from 11.4% in 2011 to 5.8% in 2014.Additionally, all measures of alcohol drinking (past-month, past-year, lifetime, daily, and 5 or more drinks in a row in the last 2 weeks) were significantly lower than 5 years ago, and all levels are at an all-time low since 1991. 

    The Obama administration remains steadfast in its commitment to reduce drug use and its consequences—and we know that the best way to reduce drug use is to prevent it from ever starting. We join our partners at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in encouraging parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors to have a conversation with a young person in their lives about making the healthy decisions that will keep them on a path toward a successful future. View valuable resources on starting the conversation here.

    Monitoring the Future is one of three major survey instruments the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services uses to monitor the nation’s substance use patterns among teens.  Information from these surveys informs strategic planning for prevention, treatment, and recovery support services for youth.  The Monitoring the Future survey produces timely results, with findings announced the same year the data is collected.

    It is troubling that approximately 10 percent of seniors report having driven a vehicle after smoking marijuana in the two weeks prior to their interview.  That is a greater frequency than those who drove after drinking alcohol (7 percent). 

    Earlier this month, President Obama raised awareness about the risks of drugged driving when he designated December as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, and we urge parents, partners and prevention advocates to spread the word: drugged driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.

    To learn more about Monitoring the Future’s 2014 results, please read the press release, and join us at 1 p.m. EST for a Twitter chat with the National Institute on Drug Abuse to discuss the findings. Use the hashtag #MTF2014 to follow along and ask questions of the head of our research and data analysis office, Dr. Terry Zobeck. 

  • Preventing Drugged Driving is as Important as Preventing Drunk Driving

    On June 12, 2008, a drugged driver in Putnam County, New York, struck and killed a bicyclist – a married, 48-year-old father of two. The driver was allegedly under the influence of morphine and marijuana at the time of the accident.  Unfortunately, incidents like these are increasingly common in the United States, leaving more families to mourn the loss of a loved one taken too soon.

    Conversations about impaired driving are nothing new for American families. The archetype of an innocent victim killed by a drunk driver is both an immediately recognizable story and an unfortunate reality for too many people.  While drunk driving has become a social taboo, there is less awareness about the dangers of driving after consuming drugs, which can carry the same lethal consequences as alcohol-impaired driving.  Drugged driving isn’t a new trend, but with current conversations regarding the legal status of certain substances, the Office of National Drug Control Policy seeks to increase awareness of the potentially tragic yet 100-percent avoidable consequences associated with drugged driving.  In the same way that Americans have banded together to prevent drunk driving over the past few decades, it’s time we also make the prevention of drugged driving a national priority.

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, 16 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for the presence of illicit drugs or medications with the ability to affect driving skills in 2007.  In the years since the survey was conducted, there has been an increase in both prescription and non-medical drug use that, at any level of consumption, may affect a driver’s perception, judgment, motor skills, and/or memory.  ONDCP is collaborating with the Department of Transportation and other Federal agencies to combat drugged and drunk driving to keep our roads safe.  In the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy, the Administration highlights a plan to reduce drugged driving by 10 percent by 2015, including encouraging states to enact per se (similar to zero tolerance) drugged driving laws, and to improve law enforcement efforts to identify drugged drivers. 

    If the shift in social norms against drunk driving tells us anything, it’s that the voices of average Americans can make a difference.  With the help of Americans everywhere, we can send the message that drugged driving should not be tolerated any more than drunk driving—that we are dedicated to keeping our children safe.  This December, as we recognize National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, remember how important it is that we come together with a unified message:  Drugged driving is dangerous.

    Michael Botticelli serves as Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. 

  • Watch: Webinar on the DEA’s Final Rule on Disposal of Controlled Substances

    On November 6, the Office of National Drug Control Policy joined the Drug Enforcement Administration to host a webinar for community agencies looking to implement drug disposal programs. The safe, environmentally sound disposal of prescription drugs is one of the four pillars outlined in the 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan to reduce prescription drug misuse, and is critical to curbing the national opioid epidemic. Officials and disposal experts from Alameda County, California also joined to discuss how ordinances might define and fund programs at the county level. 

    Watch the video: 

  • Guest Post: Sheri Jones on Youth Prevention

    I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, a place where historical  roots run deep. A stroll through town was like walking through a   history book. With every step I took, I thought about the days when great leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Congressman John Lewis marched on these same sidewalks for justice and freedom.

    And yet, at the same time, this city that once experienced so much progress seemed to be regressing. Montgomery’s homicide rates were increasing, teenage parties were saturated by alcohol, and marijuana use was rampant in our teenage population.

    It seemed that the pages of the history book I lived in were crumbling. New problems were emerging, and I felt helpless. I wanted to be an agent of change like the great historical giants who marched before me, but I had no idea how to begin.

    All of that changed during the summer of 2011, when I had the privilege of attending National Youth Leadership Initiative (NYLI), a Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) substance abuse prevention training program that teaches teens like me how to take action to reduce drug use in their communities. The program did more than equip me with the tools to become an agent of change. It ignited something inside me. As Mark Twain said, the two most important days of our lives are the day we are born and the day we find out why. It seemed that ever since that first important day, I had struggled to figure out the “why” of my life. That summer in NYLI, after realizing I could make a difference in my home town, I experienced the second most important part of my life – my purpose.

    As a young person new to the anti-drug movement, I learned that substance use prevention is not about seeing immediate change. It is about creating lasting change within our communities over time. I also learned that progress occurs only when courageous, skillful leaders seize opportunities and work for change. My NYLI experience gave me confidence to step out as never before – to speak without fear before my city council, county commissioners, and community leaders about how they could be part of a movement not only to get our community back to where it once had been, but to push it forward even further. Working with other young people from my coalition, I hosted events and youth forums to seek ways to tackle the problems that plagued our communities. With our shared vision and productive collaboration, we were able to bind the pages of history back together and begin a new chapter of change.

    Now, as a sophomore at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, I contribute to the betterment of the community by working with the Nashville Prevention Partnership, a local substance use prevention coalition, to address underage drinking. The experience has shown me that anyone, even young people like myself, can help restore shattered communities and build structures of effective and lasting change.


    Sheri Jones is a trainer with the National Youth Leadership Initiative, a program of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). 

  • In Juvenile Justice, Community Involvement is Key to Substance Abuse Prevention

    Local artists in Snohomish County, Washington, are contributing their time, tools, and studio space to mentor teens recently involved in their community’s juvenile justice system. For eight weeks, the youth will learn art and photography skills, then produce artwork documenting their lives, families, and communities. Some of their efforts will be featured in local art venues or the local newspaper.

    The teens are participants in Promising Arts in Recovery (PAIR), part of Snohomish County’s local Reclaiming Futures program. The goal of PAIR is to establish social and job skills by connecting local artists with at-risk teens who are involved in the juvenile justice system and may be undergoing treatment for substance use or mental health issues. Through programs like PAIR that offer workshops, internships, or job-shadowing opportunities, local professionals are not only helping these young people develop skills necessary to be active citizens, they are helping to rebuild a community around prevention.

    In recognition of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, we reflect on the critical need for community involvement programs that create sustainable, long-term solutions to help prevent American teens from using drugs and alcohol. At Reclaiming Futures, a national model applied in 18 states to improve juvenile justice systems, we believe that community involvement helps create a culture of prevention.

    The mission of Reclaiming Futures is to help teens trapped in the cycle of drugs, alcohol, and crime by improving access to resources through collaboration among court services, treatment service providers, educators, families, and communities. We focus on getting teens more treatment and better treatment. But equally important is connecting them with activities beyond treatment that, like PAIR, establish behaviors to help them stay drug- and crime-free. It is this beyond treatment element that has the potential to propel a new community identity around prevention. These programs help to build a network of caring individuals invested in teens’ success. Once established, the programs have the ability to reach young people early to counter peer pressure and adverse childhood experiences that may lead to substance use.

    Devoting resources to community-rooted solutions and conversation about prevention can help America’s youth connect with support systems that will aid in the success of their futures.

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is also championing community-rooted solutions through its Drug-Free Communities Support Program, which enables local community coalitions across the country establish and strengthen collaboration with public and private agencies to amplify youth substance abuse prevention efforts.

    Susan Richardson is national executive director for Reclaiming Futures. Formerly, she was a senior program officer in the health care division of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in North Carolina, where she led a three-year effort involving the state’s juvenile justice and treatment leaders to adopt the Reclaiming Futures model by juvenile courts in six North Carolina counties.