The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently hosted its first-ever national satellite town hall meeting, webcast live from the National Press Club and the Camden, Me., Opera House. The event focused on the success of a new drug prevention system that mobilizes community coalitions and equips them with tools designed to keep kids safe.
The live, hour-long webcast featured the Communities That Care (CTC) program, a longitudinal study tracking 10- to 14-year-olds that included participants in Maine’s Five Towns area of Appleton, Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport. Findings showed how the program reduced risky behavior as children progressed from fifth through eighth grades.
The program has demonstrated similar success in other states. Researchers studied a group of 4,407 fifth graders from 24 communities in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Twelve communities were randomly assigned to undergo CTC training and implementation and 12 served as control communities. In the CTC communities, stakeholders including educators, business and public leaders, health workers, religious leaders, social workers and other community volunteers received six training sessions over a year to help them identify the dominant risk and protective factors for substance use in their areas.
The coalitions then chose and implemented from two to five evidence-based prevention programs tailored to their risk factors from a menu of prevention strategies. The strategies focus on a variety of topics depending on community need, including alcohol and drugs, violence prevention, reducing family conflict, life skills training, HIV/AIDS prevention, dating safety, tobacco and anger management. The youth were surveyed annually for 4 years concerning their risky behaviors to determine the impact of delivering programs through the CTC system.
Results showed that by the eighth grade, students in the CTC communities were 32 percent less likely to begin using alcohol, 33 percent less likely to begin smoking and 33 percent less likely to begin using smokeless tobacco than their peers in the control communities. Students from CTC communities were also 25 percent less likely to initiate delinquent behavior, itself a risk factor for future substance use and an important target for prevention.