How do we fight youth substance abuse? Together!
by Stephanie Drum
Did you know that alcohol is the most abused drug among youth and young adults in the state of Texas? Did you know that providing alcohol to minors is a more serious offense than a DWI?
I am the new VASA coordinator for McLennan County. VASA stands for “VOICE Against Substance Abuse.” VASA is a community coalition, a group of concerned adults and youth working together to address issues related to underage/binge drinking, marijuana use, and prescription drug abuse in McLennan County. Our vision is creating a drug and alcohol free culture for youth and young adults.
Last month, I was in Austin with coalition representatives from all over the state of Texas, learning how to identify and address alcohol, marijuana and prescription drug abuse in young adults. I was particularly interested in the success stories shared by seasoned professionals. During the presentations, I furiously scribbled notes about potential strategies we could utilize in McLennan County. I was heartened because many of the communities who were sharing success stories started out by doing exactly what our VASA is doing right now: gathering data.
Specifically, we are gathering data to identify the status of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drug use and abuse in our county. We are in the process of conducting a survey of McLennan County residents, including students, parents and community members, to analyze the use and abuse of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs among young adults. The data will also provide an understanding of the community’s perception of substance use and abuse.
In addition to gathering information, we are implementing environmental strategies such as media campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol use and abuse by minors during prom and graduation seasons and the consequences faced by adults who purchase alcohol for minors.
We would love for everyone in McLennan County to know about the VASA and to join us in our work. Here are three basic facts to get you started:
- The VASA coalition is a partnership comprised of community members from various sectors, including students, parents, volunteers, law enforcement, health agencies and many others, who have a stake in the well-being of their community regarding substance abuse.
- The purpose of the coalition is to encourage community mobilization to make changes in community policies, laws and social norms by utilizing data gathered through research and implementing strategies that been proven to be effective in other communities around the state.
- The Texas Department of State Health Services is funding the coalition for five years; the goal is for it to become self-sustaining when the grant ends. The grant is administered locally by VOICE, the largest provider of youth substance abuse prevention services in Texas.
Just like you, I desire safe and healthy environments in which our children and youth can grow and develop into responsible adults, capable of making good decisions. I believe that we can make great strides towards this goal by working together to change the ways in which illicit consumption of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs are identified and addressed in our community.
To learn more about the VASA Community Coalition and how you can be a part of our efforts, please contact me.
Stephanie Drum is the VASA Community Coalition Coordinator and works at VOICE. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and a MDiv/MSW from Truett Seminary and Baylor University. She loves baking, the country and all kinds of art. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 741-9222 – she would love to share more about VASA Community Coalition!
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