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United Communities Splintering Substance Abuse


Substance abuse is thought to be a nearly inevitable issue in today’s communities, but the southwest counties of Colorado are taking a proactive stand against it. And they are seeing results.

In 2006, El Pomar’s Southwest Regional Council created a program to tackle substance abuse in the Fort Lewis College area and the counties of Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, and San Juan. The Council’s creation, the Regional Substance Abuse Prevention Program (RSAPP), originally designed as a three-year program, will soon enter its fifth year of growth.

The reason for such success? A strategic reliance on community ownership has given the program unusually high degrees of support and flexibility.

For example, Dolores County has one of the most successful programs: Students Taking action against Underage Drinking, or STUD. The STUD team is comprised of high school students devoted to helping their community and being positive role models for others. In 2009, in addition to tremendous outreach and media efforts, STUD founded a peer mentoring program in which high school students met regularly with elementary school students. Regular underage alcohol use has dropped by over a third in the past year.

Rebecca Larson, a local consultant who helped implement the program, attributes these kinds of results to the program’s community-based approach. “There are a variety of community players coming together to tackle an issue that any large organization couldn’t on its own. Because it’s so pervasive, a coalition is really a great way to approach an issue from many angles.” And the Council’s inventive new in-depth reporting system has allowed each county’s participants to learn and grow as their programs do the same.

“RSAPP has been a great program,” declared Chuck McAfee, Southwest Regional Council member and administrative assistant for RSAPP. “Communities have become more aware of issues when it comes to substance abuse, and more aware of each other.” The Southwest Region has felt the significant effect of this powerful program. Through teamwork, more than 2,000 individuals have been affected in some way by RSAPP--with many more to come in the future.

For a more detailed look at RSAPP, check out our latest Grantee Spotlight.

By the Numbers:

  • 275,000 – Total RSAPP funding from the Southwest Regional Council to date
  • 98 – Percentage of Montezuma County parents in 2009 who reported having rules against alcohol use, compared to 90% in 2008
  • 33 – Percentage of 7th-12th graders in Dolores County who reported regular alcohol use in 2009 (down from 51% in 2008)