Marijuana tax dollars to help prevent teen alcohol and drug use in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

Marijuana tax dollars to help prevent teen alcohol and drug use in Eagle County

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Molly Hadley.

EDWARDS — The Eagle River Youth Coalition, in conjunction with Eagle County Public Health, is taking additional steps toward preventing alcohol and drug abuse in youth throughout Eagle County. Through a grant focused on preventing problems before they arise, the organizations have paired up and brought aboard Molly Hadley, a passionate advocate of youth public health programs. Hadley will head up the County's Communities That Care initiative, implementing a proven youth substance-abuse prevention process.

The Communities That Care process will be implemented in Eagle County thanks to a five-year grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. These are marijuana tax dollars at work, said Michelle Stecher, executive director of Eagle River Youth Coalition.

"When marijuana was legalized in Colorado, I think many parents, schools and youth-serving organizations were worried about the affects it would have on students," Stecher said. "We haven't seen an alarming surge in marijuana usage in teenagers, and we want to keep that positive influence. We can accomplish this through collaborative, open dialogue focused on preventing problems before they arise."

Data-driven programs

“We all want to provide the best for our youth.”Michelle StecherExecutive director, Eagle River Youth Coalition

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There is clear data that Communities That Care works: A random sampling showed that eighth-graders in Communities That Care communities were significantly less likely to initiate delinquent behaviors and less inclined to use alcohol, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products than students without the program in their community.

"I am so excited to coordinate (Communities That Care) in Eagle County. (It) will focus prevention efforts on Eagle County's risk and protective factors determined by Healthy Kids Colorado data," Hadley said. "(Communities That Care) is an opportunity to create synergy and partnership opportunities in Eagle County — because we all want to provide the best for our youth."

Communities That Care guides communities through a proven five-phase process using prevention science to promote healthy youth development. Simply put, nonprofits, youth organizations and interested community members will work together to identify risk and protective factors in Eagle County. These members will identify evidence-based programs that will help reduce youth alcohol and tobacco use, violence and delinquent behaviors.

According to a recent study, youth in communities that use this model were 25 percent to 33 percent less likely to have health and behavior problems. The study also found a return on investment of $5.30 in criminal justice and health savings for every dollar invested in Communities That Care.

"We are very excited to partner with Eagle River Youth Coalition to strengthen our efforts to prevent substance abuse among Eagle County youth through the Communities That Care model," said Jennifer Ludwig, executive director for Eagle County Public Health and Environment. "(Eagle River Youth Coalition) is the ideal organization to lead this effort, given their strong relationship with the Total Health Alliance, Eagle County youth and other youth serving organizations across the Eagle River Valley."

The Eagle River Youth Coalition is celebrating 15 years of service this year. The organization addresses service gaps, builds strengths and offers a variety of prevention programming. With a collaborative focus on meeting youth and familial needs, Eagle River Youth Coalition provides substance-abuse prevention, youth advocacy and parent outreach efforts throughout the Eagle River Valley.

To learn more, please visit http://www.eagleyouth.org.