Coalitions in Action: Fort Bend Community Prevention Coalition Hosts First County Drug Symposium

 

In April 2016, Fort Bend Community Prevention Coalition hosted the first Fort Bend Drug Symposium to turn the tables on “4/20” – a widely-recognized pro-marijuana day. The free educational event was a partnership between the coalition and Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) officials.

“By inviting representatives from local community agencies to attend workshops/conferences on the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) process, build coalition capacity and collaborate on community projects, FBCPC has developed invaluable partnerships,” said Payal Patani of the Fort Bend Regional Council. “These relationships provide funding and assistance in planning events, promoting campaigns, implementing population-level strategies, and increasing FBCPC’s presence and prevention work in the county and surrounding areas.”

For the Drug Symposium, members of the coalition planned, marketed and fundraised for the event through community partnerships. The coalition serves Fort Bend County, located in southeast Texas and covering 860 square miles. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken within the district and over 25 percent of county residents are foreign-born. The Symposium brought national and local experts to Fort Bend County to educate community professionals about current trends in substance abuse among youth.

To change the tone of cannabis culture holiday “4/20” the coalition convened the Fort Bend Drug Symposium to address marijuana, synthetic drugs and cutting-edge prevention strategies. U.S. Congressman Pete Olson (TX-22nd) delivered opening remarks, followed by Ed Shemelya, the coordinator of the National Marijuana Initiative (HIDTA), who presented on the impacts of marijuana legalization on public health and safety. Dr. Arlo Weltge, a clinical professor at the Unitversity of Texas Medical School-Houston, spoke to attendees about the medical and psychological effects of synthetic drugs and Sierra Castedo-Rogers from the University of Texas-Austin discussed prevention science and community solutions.

“The FBCPC serves a vital role in protecting the health and welfare of all people in our larger community. Our volunteers are dedicated to reducing substance use among youth,” said Patani. “FBCPC works to change the environment, social norms and perceptions regarding substance abuse through seven proven strategies that affect community change: providing information, enhancing skills, providing support, enhancing access/reducing barriers, changing consequences, changing physical design and modifying/changing policies.”