Concerned citizens can be the most powerful force for a community in need of change, and a diverse group of such people from Globe gathered at the Chamber of Commerce on Monday to learn about a tool to combat drug abuse.
The Drug Free Community Support program presentation was organized by the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and moderated by Manuel Medina, Ph.D. The meeting was the first step in a process that will result in an application for a five-year grant to educate the public and prevent drug abuse in the community. The grant, which comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and is a federal grant, is due in March, so the local coalition will spend the rest of 2017 preparing and planning for implementation before applying in 2018.
The group that met Monday consisted of local leaders, city and county administrators, high school students and elected officials. Under the direction of Medina, the group discussed issues that affect the Globe Miami communities. Although numerous issues bobbed to the surface during discussion, there were several that stood out as the most serious to the majority of the group. Those issues include substance abuse, teen pregnancy, lack of infrastructure to serve youth, fractured family units and the lack of parental involvement.
It was pointed out by Chuck Turney of the Copper Basin Coalition that several of the issues discussed were direct results of substance abuse and if the community could somehow get a handle on that overlying problem, some of the others would almost disappear.
An example is the teen birth rate in Gila County, which has the second highest percentage in the state of Arizona. Alcohol and drug abuse are also areas of concern.
The group discussed several possible contributing factors, such as the lack fun activities for young people in the area and the lack of parental involvement. “You have to ask yourselves why this is happening,” Medina said. “Is it that they (young people) are unsupervised?”
According to the Arizona Youth Survey 2016, while not all of the news is dire, there are some disturbing trends and reasons for those trends. An example of not-so-dire news is that 66 percent of the students taking the survey had not used marijuana in 30 days.
“Not everyone is out there doing marijuana,” Medina said. “The overwhelming majority are not, but the ones who are end in the criminal justice system.”
Of those who had used within 30 days of the survey, however, 18 percent had gotten it from friends, 6 percent from parties, almost 8 percent from someone who had medical marijuana card and 13 percent from an unknown source.
The Youth Survey also showed that the average age of initiation for students engaged in risky behaviors was 12- to 13-years old (sixth to seventh grade). The behaviors listed in the study follow:
- Smoked a cigarette: Average age of initiation – 12
- Smoked marijuana – 13
- Drank alcohol – 12
- Began drinking regularly – 13
- Used RX drugs without a doctor – 13
- Gambled on anything – 13
- Attacked someone (fought) – 12
- Belonged to a gang – 13
Medina said the 12- to 13-year-old population is the one the Drug Free Communities program wants to target because “high school and young adults is a little too late.”
The top reason revealed in the survey for young people engaging in risky behaviors was that they did not talk to their parents about the above topics. The highest percentage of youths took illegal substances to avoid being sad, to feel good and to deal with stress, according to the survey.
The next step in the process for the group is to structure the coalition, which means bringing other important players to the table. The coalition will need representatives from the town of Miami, law enforcement and the school districts, to name a few mentioned during the meeting.
IDA has taken the lead for the project, and Medina said the coalition will decide who will hold and administer the grant.
Aimee Staten has worn several hats over the last few years, but she recently put on one of her more familiar caps after four years of working in nonprofits: That of a journalist. She has 14 years of experience in the news business as a reporter with eight of those years as the managing editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier.