Grant to study youth drug abuse

03/27/2014

The San Geronimo Valley Community Center was awarded a $5,000 grant from the county’s Health and Human Services Department earlier this month to develop a two-year plan for combating substance abuse among West Marin youth. The exploratory grant will fund a series of meetings between now and June for addressing problems with alcohol, drugs and tobacco. “We want to find out more about what the issues are,” said Suzanne Sadowsky, the community center’s associate director and the program organizer. “Then we will be trying to come up with programs that meet the needs of the community.” A coalition of more than two dozen local institutions have signed up to provide input—youth groups, schools, libraries, religious groups, healthcare providers and businesses—along with everyday parents and young people. Even though Marin County scores high on most indicators of community wellness, rates of substance use and abuse are disproportionately high. Nearly one-quarter of the county’s adults reported binge drinking in the past month, and over the last several years of available data, the county has also averaged 32 deaths from drug overdoses annually, mostly from prescription drugs. Substance abuse rates are high among youth, too: Ms. Sadowsky cited recent data showing nearly half of the county’s 11th graders consume alcohol and one-third binge drink, one of the highest rates in the state. The obstacles are particularly high for West Marin, which faces the unique challenges of a rural population: isolation, lack of recreational facilities, limited transportation. “When kids are home for the summer, there’s not all that much for them to do. They party—a lot of them,” Ms. Sadowsky said. She hopes the coalition will be able to identify healthy, supportive ways to meet these needs, maybe providing more social opportunities that don’t involve substances, for example, or supporting families struggling with addiction. Ms. Sadowsky said she had been considering a project like this for a long time, particularly as she began to notice more health problems among her friends from alcoholism. “When I hear about a young person who’s had an overdose or got arrested for having a six-pack in the back of the car when leaving school, it’s distressing,” Ms. Sadowsky said. “That’s not the way for kids to be embarking on what could be beautiful lives. As a parent and a grandparent I want this stuff to be out in the open.” Meetings are tentatively planned for Apr. 9 in the San Geronimo Valley, May 13 in Bolinas and June 3 in Point Reyes.