Building a Better Community Since 2007

Effective Drug Prevention Activities in Gallatin County

by Rick Gale  |  Tuesday Mar. 8th, 2016

Today’s emerging drug trends in Gallatin County require strong community partnerships to prevent and reduce substance abuse.

Underage drinking continues to be a serious public health concern and remains the number one drug of abuse for Gallatin County youth.  In fact, in 2014, results from the Montana Prevention Needs Assessment Survey of 1,107 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 revealed that 9.9 percent of 8th graders, 31.9 percent of 10th graders, and 52.3percent of 12th graders had used alcohol within the past 30 days.

Recently, those of us involved in preventing substance abuse are seeing an increase in opioid and prescription drug abuse, an influx of overdoses due to synthetic drugs, an increase in recreational marijuana use by youth, an alarming use of electronic cigarette use by youth, and methamphetamine making its way back into our community.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has identified 12 Stakeholder Groups that are vital to any community-level prevention effort.  These include:
1.    Youth
2.    Parents
3.    Businesses
4.    Media
5.    Schools
6.    Youth-serving organizations
7.    Law enforcement
8.    Religious or fraternal organizations
9.    Civic or volunteer groups
10.    Healthcare professionals
11.    State, local, governmental agencies with expertise in substance misuse
12.    Other organizations involved in reducing substance misuse

Effective prevention activities in Gallatin County will require stakeholder groups to focus on reducing risk factors, and strengthening protective factors.  
Risk factors are characteristics of school, community and family environments, and of students and their peer groups:
•    Chaotic home environment
•    Ineffective parenting
•    Little mutual attachment and nurturing
•    Inappropriate, shy, or aggressive classroom behavior
•    Academic failure
•    Low academic aspirations
•    Affiliations with deviant peers
•    Perceived external approval of drug use (peer, family, community)
•    Parental substance abuse or mental illness

Protective factors exert a positive influence and buffer against the negative influence of risk, thus reducing the likelihood that adolescents will engage in problem behaviors.  Protective factors identified through research include:
•    Strong family bonds
•    Parental engagement in child’s life
•    Clear parental expectations and consequences
•    Academic success
•    Strong bonds with pro-social institutions (school, community, church)
•    Conventional norms about drugs and school

The Risk and Protective Factor of Model Prevention is a proven way of reducing substance abuse and its related consequences.  This model is based on the simple premise that to prevent a problem from happening, we need to identify the factors that increase the risk of that problem developing and then find ways to reduce the risks.

The abuse of drugs is not a harmless personal decision: there are real, long-lasting, and devastating outcomes for those who abuse drugs and for their families, friends, and communities.

We encourage all Gallatin County Stakeholder Groups to become 21st Century Partners in Prevention and reach out to new partners in a community-level prevention effort.

Written by Rick Gale & Gary Larson, Community-Coalition On Drug Awareness.