Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) defines coalition as a formal arrangement for collaboration among groups or sectors of a community, in which each retains its identity but all agree to work together toward the common goal of a safe, healthy and drug-free community. Coalitions should have deep connections to the local community and serve as catalysts for reducing local substance misuse rates. As such, community coalitions are not prevention programs or traditional human service organizations that provide direct servicers. Rather they are directed by local residents and sector representatives who have a genuine voice in determining the best strategies to address local problems. Coalitions must work hard to connect with community members at the grassroots level. Coalition development takes time and skill. Drug Free Communities (DFC) grantees must show a minimum of 12 community sectors participating in their group, but all coalitions can increase their potential power by ensuring that they include not only the “movers and shakers”, but also the “grassroots” folks who have strong links within neighborhoods and informal institutions. Coalitions should incorporate evidence-based approaches when developing their strategic plans. Rather than depleting resources by implementing prevention programs with a limited reach, effective coalitions focus on improving systems and environments. Collectively, their approached must be geared toward population-level changes.
|The Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Program is a nationwide effort, led by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to provide funding and support to community coalitions in their work to prevent and reduce youth substance use. The DFC Program goals are to:
While youth substance use has declined over time, recent data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show:
- Establish and strengthen collaboration among communities, public and private non-profit agencies, and Federal, state, local and tribal governments to support community coalitions working to prevent and reduce youth substance use.
- Reduce substance use among youth by addressing the factors in a community that increase risk for substance use and promoting factors that minimize risk for substance use.
- More than 29% of high school students consumed alcohol
- Almost 14% engaged in binge drinking
- About 37 of every 100 high school students reported current use of a tobacco product, mainly driven by e-cigarette use
- Approximately 22% reported current marijuana use
- 7% reported current prescription opioid misuse1
Recent data have shown that drug overdose deaths have doubled among young people aged 15-19 from 2019-2020.§ In addition, more than 1 in 3 high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic and nearly half of students felt persistently sad or hopeless, putting them at increased risk for substance use.2 DFC coalitions are uniquely situated to leverage historical knowledge of their communities to address youth substance use by implementing evidence-based strategies and activities at the community level.
§ Data source: National Vital Statistics System Mortality File, CDC
Empowering Local Leaders to Implement Local Solutions - Coalition leaders work together with representatives from 12 sectors to ensure that a broad range of community expertise is included. The 12 sectors are youth, parents, business, media, school, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement, religious or fraternal organizations, civic or volunteer groups, healthcare professionals, state or local agencies, and other local organizations. Working together, DFC coalitions empower local leaders to build communities that foster a safe environment for young folks to learn, grow, and thrive.
Coalition work is guided by evidence-based frameworks such as the Seven Strategies for Community Change developed by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and the Strategic Prevention Framework developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and includes activities like
- Changing community-wide policies
- Changing school policies
- Designing communication campaigns
- Hosting drug-free social events
- Identifying opportunities for youth to engage in community change
- Offering youth and parent education and training
These policies and activities can help address risk factors for youth substance use, such as the availability and cost of alcohol and drugs, and promote protective factors, such as strong relationships with trusted adults.1,3