A new project seeks to prevent substance use by youth in Milwaukee’s highest-need zip code. The Community Advocates Public Policy Institute (PPI) was awarded the Drug-Free Communities grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. The effort is a new project of the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (MCSAP), which PPI administers. For the first time, MCSAP will zero in on a particular area in Milwaukee County, the 53206 ZIP code, to implement specific Drug-Free Communities projects. The grant is expected to continue for at least five years, with the potential for a 10-year commitment.
The Drug-Free Communities (DFC) project will specifically work to reduce youth alcohol and marijuana use in 53206 by middle and high school-age students. The 53206 zip code includes Milwaukee’s Amani and Lindsey Heights neighborhoods. The zip code is bordered by Capitol Drive to the north, Highway 43 to the east, North Avenue to the south, and 27th Street to the west. Middle and high school students from the area have rates of alcohol and marijuana use well above the state and Milwaukee Public Schools averages. The coalition will recruit community members, including youth and parents, to participate in a broad variety of prevention strategies and projects including retailer compliance checks, community projects for youth, and public outreach and education.
Tarvus Hawthorne, Program Coordinator for PPI’s MCSAP Drug-Free Communities project, said, “We are excited to be involved in tackling these issues and helping all young people in the area to reach their full potential. We know 53206 is an area of Milwaukee where a lot of issues converge to impact youth substance use. We plan to identify and then address as many of the community’s needs as we can.”
Background on the Drug-Free Communities Support Program
The Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program, created by the Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997, is the Nation’s leading effort to mobilize communities to prevent youth substance use. Directed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the DFC Program provides grants to community coalitions to strengthen the infrastructure among local partners to create and sustain a reduction in local youth substance use.
The DFC Program provides grants of up to $625,000 over five years to community coalitions that facilitate youth and adult participation at the community level in local youth drug use prevention efforts. According to data for 2013, an estimated 3,700 young people per day between the ages of 12 and 17 used drugs for the first time in the preceding year.1 Additionally, high school seniors are more likely to be current smokers of marijuana than cigarettes and non-medical use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs remains unacceptably high. 2 Parents should also know that 19% of high school seniors in 2014 reported binge drinking (i.e., 5 or more drinks in a row) in the past two weeks.3
Recognizing that local problems need local solutions, DFC-funded coalitions engage multiple sectors of the community and employ a variety of environmental strategies to address local drug problems. Coalitions are comprised of community leaders, parents, youth, teachers, religious and fraternal organizations, health care and business professionals, law enforcement, and media.
The DFC’s 2014 National Evaluation Report showed a significant decrease in past-30-day use between the first and most recent data reports for alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use among middle school and high school youth in DFC communities.