• U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement Takes Effect Today

    We are pleased to add our voice of support for the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which goes into force today. The agreement, announced last month by President Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, is a historic development in the strong relationship between our two countries, and it reflects our commitment to support democracy and economic growth in that South American nation.

    Colombia is a steadfast strategic partner of the United States and a leader in the region. Under the new agreement, which won strong bipartisan approval in Congress last fall, 80 percent of all industrial and manufactured products exported from the United States to Colombia will be duty free, effective immediately.

    The result is a clear victory for all concerned. Easing trade restrictions will boost U.S. exports to Colombia, making more American goods available to that country while at the same time strengthening the U.S. economy and helping to support more and better jobs for Americans. The agreement also will provide significant new access to Colombia’s $166 billion services market, supporting increased opportunities for U.S. service providers.

    Equally important, the agreement will help Colombia battle the production of illicit crops by creating alternative economic opportunities for its citizens, thus helping to staunch the flow of illegal drugs into America’s neighborhoods and homes.

    For an overview of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, click here. To learn more about how the agreement will benefit your community, click here. For more, read this blog post from the the Department of Commerce, and head to Twitter to folow @USTradeRep and @CommerceGov.

  • Making Treatment for Maternal Addiction a National Priority

    In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re featuring a guest blog post from Imani Walker, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Rebecca Project for Human Rights. The Rebecca Project is an organization that advocates for justice, dignity and reform for vulnerable women and girls in the United States and in Africa. You can learn more about the organization here.

    As I look forward to spending Mother’s day with my four children, I cannot help but think of other mothers across the country who suffer from untreated addiction and wonder what this Mother’s day will be like for them and their children. As a result of receiving 18 months of Family-Based Treatment, I have been in long-term recovery from substance abuse for 13 years. In the United States, investment in Family-Based Treatment programs saves countless lives and families, because healing addicted mothers exponentially affects the child welfare system, juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems. Family-based substance abuse treatment describes programs for pregnant or parenting mothers and their children that provide direct services or referrals for services including: substance abuse treatment, child early intervention, mental health, family counseling, trauma therapy, housing, medical care, nursery and preschool, parenting skills training, and educational or job training.

    The unavailability of family-based treatment is manifested in the overrepresentation of substance-abusing mothers in the child welfare system.  Many of the families who come to the attention of child welfare agencies are substance abusing. When mothers achieve access to family-based treatment services, they are able to find health, healing and stability for themselves and their families. Those beneficial outcomes translate to fewer children in foster care, less juvenile offenders and ultimately less adult offenders.

    According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 5.1 million persons were current abusers of prescription painkillers. According to the CDC, in 2009, about three out of four deaths due to prescription drug overdose were caused by prescription painkillers. The number of deaths due to these class of drugs in 2009 was nearly four times the number in 1999; this increase is paralleled by a quadrupling of the sales of prescription painkillers from 1999 to 2010.  Overdose deaths due to prescription painkillers exceed those due to cocaine and heroin combined.  Grim consequences of this opioid abuse are babies born with Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome.

    I co-founded the Rebecca Project for Human Rights ten years ago after recovering from substance abuse through a family-based treatment program. Back then crack cocaine was wreaking havoc in our urban communities; then methamphetamine emerged reaching nooks and crannies of Middle America.  Now with growing addiction to prescription drugs, mothers are increasingly younger, white and middle class. Family-Based Treatment should be an important piece of our nation’s drug control policy.

    I wish all mothers a happy and safe Mother’s Day!

    Imani Walker, Co-founder & Executive Director of The Rebecca Project for Human Rights

  • Summer Jobs+: The Launch Youth Entrepreneurship Program

    "America's young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they've got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. It's important for their future, and for America's…That's why today, we're launching Summer Jobs+, a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join my Administration in providing hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for America's youth"

    President Obama

    As the White House and Department of Labor kick off the Summer Jobs+ program, we’d like to highlight another Drug Free Communities grantee helping young people find jobs: the Launch Youth Entrepreneurship Program based in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

    The Launch is a community-based, 12-month Positive Youth Development program that seeks to empower youth by educating and engaging them in entrepreneurship, offering enriching alternatives to risky behavior, and promoting community development through the preparation and launch of summer businesses and work-based learning.

    During the school year, community service opportunities, job shadowing, and skill development workshops with local business experts help young entrepreneurs prepare and plan for a summer business. Their summer business, Frosty Scoops ice cream stand, provides an opportunity to apply the skills they have learned in weekly workshops led by Community for Alcohol and Drug-Free Youth (CADY) staff, volunteers, and community experts. The Launch is the sole youth employment program in the region and since 2005, in collaboration with the Common Man Family of Restaurants, has provided paid summer employment to over 150 local youth.


    The Launch Program is divided into three phases:

    • Phase One (September – January): Youth explore personal skills, goal setting, communication skills, and teamwork through projects and community service.
    • Phase Two (January – June): Youth learn the principles of best practices from local business experts and develop business skills that will help them succeed in the workplace and in their futures.
    • Phase Three (Mid-June – August): Youth engage in paid summer employment, supported by the Common Man Family of Restaurants.

    ONDCP congratulates CADY on the success of its Youth Entrepreneurship Program, which provides youth with the skills necessary to enter the workforce competent and drug-free. For more information, please visit CADY’s website. 

  • Summer Jobs+: Brandywine Health Foundation’s ServiceCorps Program

    "America's young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they've got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. It's important for their future, and for America's…That's why today, we're launching Summer Jobs+, a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join my Administration in providing hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for America's youth"

    President Obama

    As the White House and Department of Labor kick off the Summer Jobs+program, we continue our series of blog posts highlighting the work that Drug Free Communitiesgrantees are doing to help young people find jobs, while also supporting healthy, drug-free communities.

    Today, we highlight the Brandywine Health Foundation’s ServiceCorps Program.  The ServiceCorps is afree program combining an 8-week employment experience with a challenging life and leadership skills development curriculum.

    Each summer, 40 students between the ages of 14 and 18 in the Coatesville Area School District in Pennsylvania are selected to participate in the ServiceCorps program. Students are assigned to various work sites throughout the community, where they will work for the entire 8-week period, engagingin full-time employment.

    Each Friday of the program, participants take part in the skills and leadership development component of the program, called Resource Days.  Resource Days are an opportunity for staff to connect with youth and for participants to talk to one other about lessons learned, share great stories about their experiences, and address challenges they have faced in their workplaces. Resource Days are also a chance to display the gifts and talents in the room, and develop the students’ leadership abilities.  In addition to the skill-building, students receive hourly wages for the 35 hours worked per week.


    Photo: Kourtne’ Harden, Henok Abraham, Samuel Brown, and Kai Tooles, ServiceCorps participants at the Brandywine Hospital, their worksite.

    ServiceCorps students also complete a student-led, community-wide service project.  This summer, ServiceCorps will build on its successful ServiceCorps Recycling and Living Green Festival.  Youth will expand on the existing plans and create their own plans to implement the recycling awareness and collection event.

    During last years’ ServiceCorps program, participating students completed a total of 9,882 hours of community service, 19.25 hours of leadership training, and 10 hours of life-skills training while earning a total of $74,000 in wages. ServiceCorps students leave the programinspired and prepared to become healthy, contributing members of the greater Coatesville community.

    We congratulate the Brandywine Health Foundation for their efforts to encourage summer employment for youth in their community and to build a drug-free workforce for the future.  For more information, please visit: http://brandywinefoundation.org/cyi/meet-our-youth-making-difference-coatesville

  • Visiting Boston: Inspiration at Roca Inc.

    Today I was in Boston for an event with Senator John Kerry to highlight the issue of prescription drug and heroin abuse and discuss what we can do to keep our communities healthy and safe. While I was there, I was heartened to learn that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will soon institute a new policy to help decrease prescription drug abuse. The steps taken by Blue Cross/Blue Shield demonstrate that everyone, including insurers, have a role to play in addressing the rising tide of prescription drug abuse. 

    Untreated substance use disorders and drug abuse touch everyone.  Theystrain our economy, our healthcare and criminal justice systems, and endanger the future of our young people. When I look at the challenges facing America’s youth today, who are competing an increasingly globalized, changing economy, I know that America cannot reach its full potential unless our youngest generation is healthy and drug-free.

    As part of my visit to Boston, I also had the chance to hear from youth involved in Roca Inc. Roca is a local organization whose mission is to help  break the cycle of violence and poverty by giving young people a better shot at a brighter future.

    Photo: Senator Kerry and Director Kerlikowske speak with AmeriCorps/City Year participants.

    Inspirational people like those I met today at Roca are vital to our efforts to reduce drug abuse. We know that drug education works to prevent abuse and to empower young people to help educate their peers. I applaud Roca for its groundbreaking work in creating a better, brighter future for high-risk youth and I look forward to keeping up with their progress in the years to come.


    Photo: Senator Kerry and Director Kerlikowske pose youth forum participants at Roca Inc.

    To learn more about Roca Inc., read about its mission here. To see the Administration’s 21st century approach to drug policy, read the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy. For more information on national efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences, visit our website at www.WhiteHouse.gov/ONDCP.

  • Teaming Up With Kent County Prevention Coalition for Above the Influence Youth Summit

    On April 27th, we teamed up with the Kent County Prevention Coalition (KCPC) for the first ever Kent County Above the Influence (ATI) “Live Out Loud: Dream IT, Believe IT, Achieve IT” Youth Summit. This two-day summit brought together more than 650 middle and high school students from across the Kent County, Michigan, area to engage youth in dialogue about negative influences, including drugs and alcohol. 

    During the summit, youth joined group discussions and activities designed to challenge them to think critically about the pressures they face to use drugs and alcohol.  We were pleased to have the opportunity to present an award to one of the students in attendance, Thalia Vega, who participated in the summit’s “Be It” challenge.  Thalia’s slogan, “Let your heart do the speaking,” has been copied on billboards throughout the Grand Rapids area and exemplifies the creativity local and community partners put into the Above the Influence campaign.

    Deputy Director of State, Local, and Tribal Affairs Benjamin Tucker, provided remarks and welcomed conference attendees.  Deputy Director Tucker was also featured on ABC’s WZZM 13in Grand Rapids, PBS’s WGVU Radio, CBS’s WWMT, Mlive, and Fox 17.

    In the words of Shannon Cohen, Coordinator of the Kent County Prevention Coalition, “This conference really gotour youth excited about making positive choices. This isn’t your grandfather’s typical ‘drugs are bad!’ lecture; it’s about giving teens something to walk away with on a more personal level.” To learn more about the Above the Influence campaign and partners, please visit www.ATIPartnerships.com

  • 276 Tons of Rx Pills Collected at National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

    On April 28th, the fourth annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, the DEA and its partners around the country collected 552,161 pounds—276 tons—of unneeded prescription medication. This initiative is an important piece of our strategy to decrease prescription drug abuse, especially in light of our recent data analysis showing new Rx drug abusers are more likely to get their drugs from friends or family.

    Volunteers at two of the 5,659 take-back sites across the country were visited by senior leaders from our office. In Washington State for official travel, Director Kerlikowske stopped by a collection site in Des Moines, WA, where residents dropped off more than 290 pounds of unneeded prescription drugs.

    Back in D.C., David Mineta, our Deputy Director of Demand Reduction, showed his support with volunteers at Bolling Air Force Base


    We applaud everyone who made last Saturday such an overwhelming success, bringing the four-year total of collected medication to 1.5 million pounds, and we look forward to marking a new record next year.

  • Summer Jobs+: The Pulaski Community Partners Coalition Youth Training Center

    "America's young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they've got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. It's important for their future, and for America's…That's why today, we're launching Summer Jobs+, a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join my Administration in providing hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for America's youth"

    President Obama

    As the White House and Department of Labor kick off the Summer Jobs+ program with the announcement of some innovative smartphone apps to assist in the job search, we’d like to highlight the work our Drug Free Communities grantees are doing to help young people find jobs.

    After the Pulaski Community Partners Coalition (PCPC) in Pulaski, Virginia, became a Drug Free Communities grantee, members found that joblessness was contributing to a sense of hopelessness in the area, which in turn greatly increased substance abuse in all ages.  Businesses in the area also had difficulty finding a skilled, drug-free work force.

    PCPC set out to build a skilled, drug-free workforce by giving youth the experience necessary to help them to visualize a successful future without alcohol and drugs.  To do this, PCPC developed a “Youth Training Center” (YTC) program, which they will pilot this summer.  The pilot program will target 14- to 18-year-olds and those that successfully complete the program will receive a stipend.

    The YTC program has two parts: classroom training and hands-on work experience. 

    The program teaches soft skills like resume writing, filling out job applications, interviewing, appropriate dress and body language. The youth participants will be trained in how to take initiative in the workplace.  Program staff will discuss the impact substance abuse can have both on current employment and future prospects.  Then, the youth will put their skills to work in a safe, supervised job setting.

    Pulaski youth learn job skills with Pulaski Community Partners Coalition

    The program has partnered with various businesses and organizations including: the Pulaski County Juvenile Court Services, the Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA, the Pulaski Police Department, the Pulaski Library, and the Department of Business at Virginia Tech. These partners will provide training and employment opportunities to youth involved in the program.

    ONDCP applauds PCPC for their efforts to create and train a young, drug-free workforce for the future of their community and looks forward to the success of the program in the coming years.

  • National Study: “Heavy” Marijuana Use Up 80 Percent Among Teens

    Today, our colleagues at The Partnership at Drugfree.org released the findings of a new, national study called The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, or PATS. This study tracks drug use and attitude trends among high-school aged teens in America, and this year it revealed some troubling findings.

    Most notably, it found that marijuana use among teens in 2011 rose over the preceding three years, with an especially sharp rise in past-month, heavy use (i.e., 20 or more times in the past 30 days) of the drug. Heavy, past-month use of marijuana saw an 80 percent increase among U.S. teens since 2008. These findings draw particular attention to the huge gap in youth education left behind when the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaignwas defunded by Congress last year.

    As the Partnership notes, the last time marijuana use was this widespread among teens was in 1998 when past-month use of marijuana was at 27 percent. Marijuana use by teens is up across the board, with a 42 percent increase in past-month use, a 26 percent increase in past-year use, and a 21 percent increase in lifetime use.

    Marijuana use has become a normalized behavior among American teens; in the study, 30 percent fewer teens agreed with the statement “in my school, most teens don’t smoke marijuana” than in 2008. 71 percent of teens say they have friends who use marijuana regularly (up from 64 percent in 2008).

    With heavy marijuana use up 80 percent in 2011, Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, expressed concern about the risks of teenage drug use—which has been shown to lead to substance abuse disorders in adulthood.

    From The Partnership at Drugfree.org: "These findings are deeply disturbing as the increases we're seeing in heavy, regular marijuana use among high school students can spell real trouble for these teens later on,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “Heavy use of marijuana – particularly beginning in adolescence – brings the risk of serious problems and our data show it is linked to involvement with alcohol and other drugs as well. Kids who begin using drugs or alcohol as teenagers are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders when compared to those who start using after the teenage years.”

    The study found that while the amount of prescription drug abuse among teens was relatively unchanged, the level was unacceptably high. Unfortunately this flattening effect cannot be attributed to parents included in the study, who reported that Rx medicines were actually more accessible in the home now than in 2010.

    All of these findings underscore the importance of reaching and educating youth—and their parents—about the long-term consequences of teenage drug use.

    Parents, for resources on educating your children about drugs, please visit The Anti-Drug. Teens looking for support to resist drug use can visit Above the Influence.

  • Take Action: Find a National Take-Back Day Site Near You

    America is facing an unprecedented drug abuse epidemic fueled by prescription medications found in homes across the country.  According to the CDC, prescription drug overdoses claimed the lives of more than 15,500 Americans in 2009 – nearly four times the number of people who died from these drugs in 1999.

    In 2010, about 2,100 young people per day abused prescription drugs for the first time, and the majority of these pills came from friends, family, or in the home. Teens aren’t the only ones abusing medication; in 2010, Americans began using prescription drugs for non-medical reasons at a rate of about 6,600 people per day.

    With more people dying from drug-induced deaths than car accidents in America, it is vitally important that we do what is necessary to prevent drug abuse.

    Three out of four prescription drug overdoses involve opioid pain relievers, and, as we mentioned earlier this week, more than 65 percent of people who abuse medication obtain the drugs—for free, or without asking—from friends or family.  With prescription drug abuse now at epidemic levels, it is more important than ever to remove unused and or unwanted prescription drugs from your home. 

    Tomorrow, Saturday, April 28, Director Kerlikowske will participate in the fourth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, with scheduled visits to four collection locations in the Seattle area. For the event, organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), collection sites around the country will allow residents to safely dispose of unneeded or unwanted prescription drugs in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible way.

    Approximately 377,086 pounds of unwanted or expired medications were turned in at more than 5,000 sites during DEA’s most recent Take-Back event in October 2011. In all, state, local and tribal partners have collected nearly 500 tons of pills during Take-Back events in 2010 and 2011.

    For more information about Take-Back Day, go here. To locate a take-back site near you, please use the DEA’s site locator. To learn more about the Administration’s strategy for combating prescription drug abuse, see the 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan.