PARK RAPIDS, MN (October 5, 2021) – On September 21, 2021, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (CDC NCIPC) announced $13.25M in grants to 52 new and 54 competing continuations Drug-Free Community (DFC) Coalitions to prevent and reduce substance use in youth (individuals 18 years of age or younger). CHI St. Joseph’s Health / Hubbard in Prevention Coalition was one of the 54 competing continuation DFC Coalitions awarded a year 6 funding opportunity.
Since 2008, Hubbard County has been working to prevent youth alcohol, tobacco, and drug use. Through state-level funding, the Hubbard in Prevention (HIP) coalition successfully worked with law enforcement, youth, and local businesses to restrict youth access to alcohol at bars, restaurants and stores. Local ordinances were established to prevent youth access to alcohol at parties. HIP partnered with local schools to educate youth on alcohol risks using prevention curriculum, using Minnesota-developed Project Northland. The coalition’s primary educational campaign, Positive Community Norms (PCN), helped share the message that most Hubbard County youth don’t use substances.
CHI St. Joseph’s Health began work on these issues in August of 2011 with a 5-year $1 million dollar Department of Human Services, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division Planning and Implementation (P&I) grant. This grant focused on reducing the use of alcohol among youth. “In 2016 we received a 5-year $625,000 Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant to continue much of our work that we were doing and also allow us to focus on many other substance use issues among our youth. Substance use and chemical dependency continues to be identified as one of our top Community Health Needs. We are very happy that we have been given the opportunity and funding to continue this important work,” said Ben Koppelman, President, CHI St. Joseph’s Health.
During HIP’s first five years of Drug Free Community (DFC) grant funding from 2016 to 2021, the coalition continued to implement prevention strategies that had been successful. PCN campaigns expanded to address marijuana in addition to alcohol, and a local ordinance restricting social access to alcohol was updated to include marijuana and other drugs. The coalition actively promoted prescription drug take-back days, and partnered with law enforcement to bring a traveling take-back box to senior centers throughout the county. HIP played a key role in hosting a successful Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) event which included day-time activities and learning opportunities for youth and school staff, and an evening panel presentation for community members on the impact of childhood trauma on learning and well-being.
During the next five years, Hubbard County plans to address underage drinking, youth tobacco use, and youth marijuana use. Tobacco and alcohol are the most commonly reported substances of use among youth, and rates are higher than the statewide average. Marijuana is the next most commonly used substance, with local rates similar to the statewide average. Hubbard County youth report that they believe marijuana use and vaping are less risky compared to other substances. While prescription drug misuse among youth is still a concern, rates of use are low and have declined in recent years. While HIP will strive to prevent and reduce substance use among all youth in the county, additional coalition resources will be used to support youth who are at higher risk of substance use due to mental health concerns as well as ACEs.
Sustainable strategies to increase community collaboration include: maintaining a communication plan to promote the work of the coalition and share prevention messages and resources, providing educational and skill-building opportunities to coalition members and youth on an on-going basis, and regularly assessing coalition members’ and community partners’ experiences, attitudes, and recommendations. Prevention strategies to prevent and/or reduce youth substance use include policy change, compliance checks, training, prevention curricula, and other programming.
HIP will continue to gather data to help answer the question: “How have the lives of Hubbard County youth improved as a result of the HIP coalition?” Through surveys, interviews, listening sessions, and activity tracking, HIP will continually assess what’s working well, what can be improved, the extent to which youth well-being has improved, and the extent to which disparities have been reduced.