Feature: Empowering youth, citizens to create change

The following was written for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Clatsop Affiliate August 2017 newsletter. Thank you, NAMI Clatsop for featuring us!

 

By Carly Castaneda

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

When I think of my work with North Coast Prevention Works, there is no better representation than the quote above. I am honored to be part of such a vibrant organization, which truly embodies the belief that communities can affect great change.

Prevention Works is a coalition united in creating a healthy and safe Clatsop County. We are a gathering of people who believe that all youth and families can thrive when given the right opportunities and tools.

As Prevention Works’s project coordinator, I was hired to assist with our newly rewarded Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grant. This prestigious federal grant has been proven to significantly reduce youth substance use and change the landscape of community health and wellness. DFC is unique in that it isn’t a prescriptive list of activities. Instead it invests in a process that engages community members and builds collaborations. It recognizes that every community is unique and that our citizens are our strongest asset in solving local issues.

One way DFC is effective is that it considers the environment in which substance use is happening. If a frog gets sick from a virus in a pond, we can remove the frog and nurse it back to health. However, if we return the frog to the pond, he'll grow ill again. This is why we’re working to improve the environment, through its systems, policies, and norms, that influence substance abuse.

Prevention Works has a long history of grassroots mobilization that date back to the early 2000s. Our efforts have focused on empowering youth and strengthening existing community assets. One of my favorite initiatives is the annual Youth Recognition Awards, which recognizes youth who are making a meaningful difference in our community. Prevention Works is also a proven leader in prevention. We were the first coalition in Oregon to implement RX Take Back Days, which ensures the safe disposal of unwanted prescription drugs. This effort later led to permanent RX drop boxes at all police departments and hospitals in the county.

We know that social change takes a village. Issues such as substance abuse are too large and overwhelming for any one person or organization to take on alone. By coming together, leveraging our resources, and including youth and families in the process, we will make lasting community-level change. We welcome everyone to partner with us and be part of the change.

Ready to join our table? Prevention Works meets the 3rd Thursday of the month from 3:30-5:00pm at Warrenton City Hall. This month we are hosting an all-day workshop featuring Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) trainer Teresa Bishop.

For more information, please contact me at 971-606-9055 or carly@ncpreventionworks.org.