Prevention programs save state money

Life Skills Training is an evidence-based substance abuse prevention curriculum currently being implemented amongst sixth grade students at Eckstein Middle School. A recent report from the Prevention Research Center at Pennsylvania State University indicates that prevention programs implemented in their state, including Life Skills Training, "produced returns between $1 and $25 per dollar invested, and can generate cost savings as great as $130 million for a single program."

Reducing costs for juvenile justice system: "The evidence of the substantial economic benefits of these prevention programs, coupled with the proof of their impact on delinquency and crime prevention, comes at a critical time. The cost of Pennsylvania's criminal and juvenile justice system is increasing dramatically, and the state is currently facing a corrections crisis, with county jails and state prisons operating well-over capacity . . . increased support for effective prevention programs throughout Pennsylvania could generate reductions in both youth and adult corrections populations and save the Commonwealth millions of dollars."

Substantial return on investment: When they looked at Life Skills Training they found that "The unusually low program cost and wide reach, combined with high effectiveness, results in a return on investment of over $25 (per dollar invested)."

Free community mobilization webinar

Free online training opportunity!

Community Mobilization for Coalitions webinar
Thursday, May 21, 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time

This webinar is meant to provide participants with step-by-step information on mobilizing neighborhoods and practical tips and tools to help coalitions communicate effectively with diverse audiences. Participants will learn:

-- the different forms of advocacy;

-- why it's important to research the issue and build capacity for specific strategies to be implemented;

-- how to recruit allies;

-- about different campaigns that coalitions may use in their communities.

To register, click here.

Tobacco prevention funds to be cut

According to the American Heart Association, "In a last minute move at the end of session, the (Washington State) legislature passed additional cuts for the current budget year that will completely shut down the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) for May and June."

In our state, tobacco prevention strategies have successfully decreased smoking rates. In six years, the TPCP has

1) reduced the number of kids smoking by 65,000 (50%) and

2) saved $2.1 billion in future healthcare costs.

The TPCP shows that prevention does indeed work!

Include prevention in healthcare reform legislation

As President Obama and Congress work to get healthcare reform legislation introduced and passed, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) is working to ensure that substance abuse prevention is included in the legislation. It has developed a proposal to include drug/alcohol prevention in healthcare reform.

Not only is this document useful for sharing with policy-makers, it provides good information about why what the NE Seattle coalition is doing is important. It provides data to support

-- the fact that prevention programs reduce economic and medical costs associated with substance abuse;

-- the multi-sector approach (coalitions) to prevention;

-- the need for comprehensive strategies.

If you want a synopsis of national data regarding substance abuse, prevention, and associated problems, this is a great source.

First drugs used by teenagers

According to the April 20 CESAR FAX, from the Center for Substance Abuse Research: 56% of youths who first started using drugs in the past year began with marijuana.

From my understanding, the statistics used in this FAX do not include alcohol as a drug.

Early prevention programs important

I receive "Research into Action" email messages from CADCA's (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) National Coalition Institute on a regular basis. The latest one is entitled, "Early Intervention Can Reduce Marijuana Use Initiation Among Youth". It says:

Parents have the greatest affect on a young person's decision to use marijuana during early adolescence. After age 15, youth tend to base the decision more on peer influence.This research, published in Substance Use & Misuse indicates that parents must reach young people before age 13 to increase the likelihood that the youth will choose against initiating marijuana use.

It goes on to suggest the following ways to prevent youth marijuana use:
  • Implement parenting programs and education earlier -- while parents have a child in pre to early adolescence.
  • Target prevention efforts at reducing the initiation of alcohol and cigarette use among adolescents of all ages.
  • Work with schools and families and other community members more closely on fostering environments where young people are less likely to be offered marijuana by peers and others.
Other Research into Action messages include:

Children's Knowledge/Opinions May Predict Youth Alcohol/Tobacco Use -- a particularly good one for our community since one of our main risk factors is "intention to use" alcohol;

Promoting Youth-Adult Partnerships in Coalition Decisionmaking;

A Community Systems Approach -- Greater and More Sustainable Impact through Policy;

Going Beyond Program Implementation -- Issues to Consider When Institutionalizing an Evidence-Based Prevention Program.

Purchase and possession laws reduce auto-related accidents

According to a story in HealthDay, laws that are most effective when it comes to reducing the number of drinking-related auto accidents are:

" . . . laws targeting the purchase and possession of alcohol by youth, including use-and-lose laws that allow the suspension of a driver's license for any underage alcohol violation and zero-tolerance laws that make it illegal for young people to drive with any amount of alcohol in their system."

Later in the article it states:

"The culture and drinking habits in which a young person was reared also affected the incidence of drinking and driving fatalities, the researchers said."

"We found a direct relationship between beer consumption per capita between drinking and driving accidents," Fell said. "We'd like to have underage beer drinking per capita, but that information isn't available."

Binge drinking and the adolescent brain

From Newswise:

A study of adolescent binge drinkers has found that even relatively infrequent exposure to large amounts of alcohol during the teen years may compromise the integrity of the brain’s white matter, which is critical for the efficient relay of information within the brain. The preliminary findings – to be published online in advance of the July issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research – indicate that binge drinking may be detrimental to the developing adolescent brain.

Belltown COP

An article in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer shows what a group of Belltown community members are doing to reduce drug dealing in their neighborhood.

General coalition meeting

A general meeting of the Prevention WINS coalition (NE Seattle Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking) will take place:

Monday, April 27, 2009
12:45 - 2:15 p.m.
Eckstein Middle School, P10

Meetings are open to everyone concerned about underage drinking in our community!

Tobacco prevention funding

Here is an opinion piece that appeared in The Seattle Times about losing funding for tobacco prevention.

SPD requests liquor license not be renewed

A recent letter to the Washington State Liquor Control Board from the Seattle Police Department asks that the liquor license for SP Mart not be renewed. SP Mart is located just five blocks from Eckstein Middle School, the recipient of a prevention grant from the Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse because of high underage drinking rates in northeast Seattle.

Over the past few years, SP Mart has been caught selling alcohol to minors multiple times by both Seattle Police and the Liquor Control Board. Earlier today, I was told that they were caught selling to minors again last Friday, despite being notified that their liquor license is in jeopardy.

On February 6, I blogged about a study that shows that drinking rates are higher among 12 - 17 year-olds who live within a half-mile of an alcohol outlet and those teenagers are more likely to binge drink and engage in drunk driving. Reducing the access minors have to alcohol in our community is an important part of the multiple prevention strategies our coalition is implementing.

How to regulate alcohol advertising

The Marin Institute recently released a guide for regulating alcohol advertising. The guide is meant to help policymakers draft effective state and local laws to minimize youth exposure to alcohol advertising.

It includes:
-- a section about regulating commercial speech and the first amendment;
-- a checklist for drafting laws;
-- examples of restrictions;
-- model language for current laws;
-- current laws regarding alcohol advertising;

Beer taxes

On April 2 I wrote about how some states are considering raising alcohol taxes as a way to raise revenues. Alcohol taxes are a proven way to reduce underage drinking.

If you're interested in knowing how Washington's beer taxes compare to those in other states, here is a link that compares tax rates for beer, cigarettes, sales, and gas:

In the northwest, Oregon is considering increasing beer taxes. Click here for a link to their bill.

Free underage drinking information

April is Alcohol Awareness Month and the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information has free publications and other resources with information about alcohol, including underage drinking.

Hollywood gift bags

I never thought that I would blog about Miley Cyrus, but I found it interesting that she recently derided Hollywood events producers for including bottles of alcohol in their gift bags. She says that such gifts promote underage drinking -- as a 12-year-old, she received a gift bag containing vodka.

Parents worry about 'alcopops'

From Parents Worry That 'Alcopops' Encourage Teen Drinking, that appeared on on April 6:

Flavored alcoholic beverages -- dubbed alcopops -- contribute to underage drinking and should carry warning labels, say many American adults who took part in a new national survey.

"Alcopops are sweet drinks made to taste like cola or soda pop or punch or lemonade. Typically, alcopops have between 5 and 8 percent alcohol content, which is a little bit more than most beers, and they're marketed to look like familiar drinks to kids," Dr. Matthew Davis, director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, said in a news release.

The survey of 2,100 adults, ages 21 and older, found that 52 percent believe alcopops definitely or probably encourage underage drinking, and that 92 percent strongly support the use of warning labels on alcopops. Most of the respondents also favor greater restrictions on alcopop advertising that focuses on youth.

"We also found in this poll that about 75 percent of adults in the United States are concerned underage drinking is a problem," Davis said.

Binge drinking-related ER visits increase

From "Intervening With Teen Drinking", National Public Radio, Weekend Edition, March 22, 2009:

In the past three years, the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento saw a 30 percent increase in children between 12 and 17 coming to the ER with injuries from binge drinking. And they had higher blood alcohol levels than in the past. Emergency departments across the country say they're seeing the same thing.

These findings seem to contradict Monitoring the Future, a self-reported survey that is considered the gold standard for tracking risky behavior in teens.

Lloyd Johnston, a principal investigator with Monitoring the Future, oversees the questionnaire that asks kids about their drinking habits. He says the survey is not seeing more kids drinking. In fact, his study has found fewer kids drinking over the past eight or 10 years.

Still, Johnston says there could be a reason for the conflicting reports: "It could be still that among those who drink, there's more extreme forms of drinking, and they're more likely to end up in the emergency room."

That hypothesis rings true with the Drug Abuse Warning Network, or DAWN, which is part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The data-collection network tracks emergency room visits for teen binge drinking.

DAWN surveyed 12 metropolitan areas over the past couple of years. Four of those areas saw a significant increase in ER visits due to teen binge drinking from 2004 to 2006. Denver had a 50 percent jump, from 644 estimated visits to 778; Phoenix saw a 49 percent rise, from 460 to 725. In New York City, such ER visits were up 35 percent, from 899 to 1,211. San Diego had the highest increase: 139 percent, from 183 visits to 438.

Free 5th & 6th grade classroom materials

Last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funded Town Hall Meetings to raise awareness about underage drinking throughout the country. This year, they are supporting "Reach Out Now, Teach-Ins". In collaboration with Scholastic, Inc. they developed materials that are targeted at fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms. The materials include a lesson plans, worksheets, posters, and information for parents.

Raising healthy teenagers

The current edition of the Journal Newspapers contains a cover story that is about "Raising healthy teenagers". It includes information from the coalition's March 23 parenting forum, Keeping Track of Teens:

Here’s some good news: Kids today report feeling more connected to their parents than those in the last few generations. According to J. David Hawkins, PhD, of the University of Washington Social Development Research Group and developer of Guiding Good Choices, parents have a much greater influence on their kids than they think.

“All the research shows that parents really do continue to be a very influential force in kids’ lives all the way through to college,” said Hawkins, who spoke at a March 23 parenting forum called “Keeping Track of Teens” at Eckstein Middle School in North Seattle. He encouraged parents to set clear guidelines about things like underage drinking and make those known to your kids.

His Guiding Good Choices curriculum teaches parents the importance of forming strong bonds with their kids by interacting with them on a regular basis, setting clear standards, providing the opportunities and skills to be successful, and recognizing efforts for improvement and achievement.

“[Our kids] will feel emotionally attached and connected to us, which creates the motivation to live by the standards set by our family,” explained Hawkins. “It’s important to keep the bonds strong.”

Carolyn Bernhard is the co-chair of a coalition of parents and community members in Northeast Seattle called Prevention Works in Seattle. The coalition hosted the recent parenting forum at Eckstein, where Bernhard’s 14-year-old daughter attends school. She saw how much a part of the high school culture alcohol was when her 21-year-old daughter was that age. “I’ve been involved [in the coalition] from the beginning. It gave me a way to try to change that culture,” she said.

The emphasis is on the middle school years. “If we can get parents and kids to understand the benefits of not drinking, we can make a difference at the high school and college level,” she said. “With the work we’re doing in middle school, my hope is that there will be a core group of kids who get to high school and choose not to drink, and still be cool.”

MADD CEO nominated to lead NHTSA

The Obama Administration has announced its intention to nominate MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) CEO Chuck Hurley as the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If confirmed by the United States Senate, Mr. Hurley would be responsible for leading all highway safety programs in the country, promulgating highway safety standards, and helping to administer fuel economy regulations.

Positive risk-taking

I recently read an article in ParentMap called, "The elephant in the room: Talking to kids about the economy". In the article, it states: In an ABC News poll conducted last November, 75% of 12- to 17-year-olds who said that their parents were worried about the economy also said they were worried themselves.

It goes on to say: And stress can have negative effects on physiological and psychological well-being -- effects that often manifest themselves in poor decision-making. Including the use of alcohol or marijuana.

Since the article was written by Stephen Wallace, I checked out his website. He is the national chairman of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) so I re-visited their website, as well. Their Teens Today page has links to many studies having to do with teenagers and the decisions they make.

One that I found particularly interesting has to do with providing teenagers with positive risk-taking opportunities. Here's what I cut and pasted:

The Teens Today 2004 research identified three broad categories of positive risk-taking.

  1. Life Risks
    • Social – e.g. joining a club or group
    • Emotional – e.g. asking someone on a date or sharing feelings with friends
    • Physical – e.g. rock climbing
  2. School Risks
    • Academic – e.g. taking an advanced placement course
    • Athletic – e.g. trying out for a sports team
    • Extracurricular – e.g. running for student council
  3. Community Risks
    • Volunteering – e.g. helping the elderly or homeless
    • Mentoring – e.g. working with younger children
    • Leading – e.g. starting a business or charity

What Does This Mean for Families and Friends?

Both middle school (52 percent) and high school (42 percent) teens are most likely to say their parents do the most to positively influence them to challenge themselves, followed closely by their friends (29 percent in middle school and 36 percent in high school). These findings are consistent with past Teens Today studies that have shown that parents and peers have tremendous influence on teen behavior. For example, teens who report regular, open communication with their parents about important issues say they are more likely to try to live up to their parents’ expectations and less likely to drink, use drugs, or engage in early sexual behavior.

Parents and peers can help teens to take positive risks by:

  • Modeling inclusive social behavior and coaching peer-to-peer social skills;
  • Identifying and discussing emotional reactions to issues or events;
  • Encouraging focus on academics and consideration of higher level courses;
  • Supporting club or activity membership and/or athletic participation; and
  • Involving family and friends in community-service project(s).

WA to open liquor stores in malls?

The Washington State Senate's proposed budget, released earlier this week, includes a provision that would direct the Liquor Control Board to open five new state stores and ten contract stores. Appropriations are provided for opening nine state stores on Sundays, opening state liquor stores on seven holidays, and opening six mall locations during the winter holiday season.

States consider raising alcohol taxes

According to, proposals for increasing alcohol taxes are on the table in more than a dozen states as part of their budget proposals. Higher alcohol taxes have proven to reduce problem drinking, including underage drinking. (See March 26 post below.)

Here's an excerpt from the article:

Advocates might like to believe that their arguments about the public-health benefits of raising the price of alcoholic beverages are finally getting through to policymakers. "People see this mostly as a revenue source; however, some are talking about the health arguments," said CSPI's Hacker.

Practicality also may be playing a role, he added: "It might be occurring to legislators that there's not much more they can squeeze out of tobacco." Many states -- including those where the tobacco industry has traditionally held sway -- have hiked tobacco taxes to raise badly needed revenues. Until very recently, however, corresponding hikes in "sin taxes" on alcohol have been quite rare.

"Twenty-five states haven't raised their alcohol taxes in 20 years," according to Hacker. "It is a source of revenue for states that has been long overlooked, and there's a substantial evidence base suggesting that higher prices and taxes will reduce alcohol-related harms and costs. And, it is a natural source of funding for alcohol and other drug treatment and prevention."

Recent research reviews led by Alexander Wagenaar, Ph.D., and published in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that raising alcohol taxes cuts alcohol consumption and is among the most effective way to reduce alcohol-related disease mortality.