Sunnyside United-Unidos Coalition developed a multi-cultural, multi-media plan to educate adults about how to talk to their kids about the dangers of using alcohol and marijuana, including using ads from campaigns: “Talk. They Hear You.” and “Start Talking Now.”
“Sunnyside residents have long been concerned about the high level of youth alcohol and other drug use and have tried various strategies to lower those rates. There was some change, however, since receiving our DFC Grant and putting into place focused, targeted strategies, based on our community assessment. We have seen consistent drops in youth alcohol and marijuana use, despite legalized marijuana in Washington state,” said Catherine Kelley, Director of School and Community Youth Substance Abuse Prevention programs. “Our assessment revealed that our youth are not getting the message about the dangers and harms of alcohol and marijuana use from adults in the community. Their perception of harm is low and reported availability of alcohol and marijuana is high.”
Sunnyside is located in south-central Washington, a predominantly a rural, agricultural community. The growth and processing of tree fruits, grapes, asparagus and hops provides many jobs; however, many jobs pay minimum wage and some are seasonal. In addition to poverty rate that is nearly two and a half times the state average, the community is also challenged by low rates of educational attainment by many adults in the community.
The Sunnyside school district received a special grant to address low graduation rates in 2010. Having made significant progress since that time, Sunnyside espoused a graduation rate of 90.1 percent in 2016. Addressing barriers to learning, such as youth substance abuse and violence, are an integral part of this program.
“One highlight of the media program is our radio talk shows on the local Spanish radio station. Talk show guests included the Sunnyside Police Department, the Liquor Cannabis Board, Astria Sunnyside Hospital physicians and school prevention/intervention specialists,” said Kelley. “The coalition has sponsored public education events for parents and community members to provide information. We attend local health and resource fairs, as well, to hand out information. We provide Spanish translation for all community events, notices and handouts.”
The coalition works with the local police department to do annual compliance checks at stores and restaurants, and worked with our school resource officers to create a video about the dangers of drinking and driving, which plays before every movie at our local movie theater. “It is great to have faces in the video that the students recognize and respect,” said Kelley.
Sunnyside United-Unidos Coalition was particularly concerned with the 8th grade alcohol and marijuana use. There was a significant jump between 6th and 8th grade use rates. To address the jump, the coalition worked with the school to implement Life Skills, a best practice program known to help reduce the rates of both alcohol and marijuana use.
The Sunnyside High School Prevention Club formed in 2013, and sponsors many peer education activities. The club has grown from five members to 25 members and meet regularly to put together activities during Red Ribbon Week and National Drug Facts Week.
“We are excited to report that we have seen a 28 percent drop in 30-day alcohol use and a 39 percent drop in binge drinking use among 8th through 12th graders and a 27 percent drop in marijuana use among students in those grades,” said Kelley. “Youth perception of harm of alcohol use and regular marijuana use is increasing. Youth who have best friends who drink has dropped by 45 percent and easy access to alcohol has dropped by 45 percent. Citations for adults furnishing liquor to minors has dropped and the number of arrests for illegal possession of marijuana have dropped significantly.”