CADCA Publisher January 18, 2024

Coalitions in Action: Weber CTC’s Journey in Youth-Centric Substance Use Prevention

In the heart of Weber County, Utah, Weber Communities That Care (Weber CTC) coalition is making significant strides in strengthening its community through substance use prevention and mental health promotion. At the forefront of these efforts is a dedicated group of coalition members, with representation from each of the twelve sectors, alongside a robust Youth Council. Madeline Robles, the full-time coalition coordinator for Weber Communities That Care (Weber CTC), shared about the coalition’s journey, challenges, and innovative approaches to substance use prevention in their community.

Established in 2015 in response to a nationwide surge in vaping, Weber CTC has consistently prioritized addressing risk and protective factors to create a healthier environment for its youth. The coalition’s emphasis has primarily been on combating nicotine use, particularly through vaping mechanisms. While acknowledging the decline in overall vaping rates, Madeline highlighted that vaping remains their priority prevention focus among youth.

Another pivotal aspect of Weber CTC’s strategy is the prevention of underage drinking, with an emphasis on empowering parents. Recognizing the crucial role families play in preventing risky behaviors, Madeline stressed one of the coalition’s core tenets is helping caregivers understand their role in the broader context of substance use prevention.

An insightful shift in perspective emerged as the coalition delved into the root causes of substance use. Through conversations with peer groups, counselors, and law enforcement, Weber CTC discovered that many youth turn to vaping as a means of coping with anxiety and mental health struggles. In response, the coalition collaborated with law enforcement partners to reevaluate laws and norms surrounding substance use, advocating for a supportive rather than purely punitive approach.

Collaboration with law enforcement also played a crucial role in identifying hotspots of substance use. By involving the Youth Council in building community maps and pinpointing these hotspots, the coalition facilitated open communication between trusted partners and law enforcement. This collaboration led to increased patrols and targeted efforts to address substance use in specific locations.

Weber CTC also recognized the importance of engaging parents in conversations about substance use. Initiatives like parent nights and workshops aimed to equip parents with information on risk factors, prevention strategies, and building trust with their children.

The coalition’s engagement extended to schools, with partnerships formed with PTAs and school districts. The Youth Council’s active involvement in events like Red Ribbon Week have further demonstrated a commitment to promoting healthier coping mechanisms. This year’s theme “Be Kind to Your Mind, Live Drug-Free” underscored the importance of encouraging positive behaviors and coping skills.

Madeline also highlighted the pivotal role of the Youth Council in shaping the coalition’s direction. After attending CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute in 2022, Weber CTC returned to its community with a comprehensive action plan, emphasizing the importance of youth perspectives in building effective strategies.

I think that my biggest piece of advice is to never underestimate the power of a new perspective. The more voices you can bring to the table, the more you can involve your community,” shared Madeline. “And to take it a step further, it’s even better when you can provide them with training, because once they become informed, new ideas are unleashed and they become even more generative and effective.”

Weber CTC’s journey serves as an inspiring example of a community-driven approach to substance use prevention. By addressing local conditions, engaging diverse voices, and prioritizing youth perspectives, the coalition continues to make a positive impact on the lives of the youth in Weber County.

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