Coalitions in Action: Partnering for Prevention with Local Law Enforcement

 

Leading up to Mid-Year Training Institute, July 15 – 19, we will be highlighting the amazing work of coalitions based in our 2018 host city – Orlando, Florida! This week, we will be highlighting the Substance Abuse Free Indian River (SAFIR) coalition.

“We are very proud of our initiatives: SAFIR Rx, Talk, They Hear You, No One’s House and Friday Night Done Right, but we are particularly excited about Know the Law, which is conducted by law enforcement officers (LEOs) in the classroom,” said Robin Dapp, Executive Director. “It helps bring students and officers together.”

At the beginning of each school year, school resource officers provide the Know the Law classes to incoming high school freshmen. The project explains the common offenses committed by youth on a regular basis. The program is designed to make our local youth and young adults aware of the laws and the consequences of breaking the law.

“When they make decisions about their behavior, they should always consider the law and think about the consequences before they act.  ‘Ignorance of the law’ is never an acceptable excuse for breaking the law.  It is important for you to know that, as a member of our society, you have rights, responsibilities and privileges that are established by law.  Remember that your actions now will have a great impact on your future.  You alone are responsible for your behavior, not your family or friends.”

Dapp notes that a significant environmental strategy that has been embraced by local law enforcement is Civil Citation, an initiative that can make a big difference in youth’s futures. The coalition serves four towns: Vero Beach, Sebastian, Fellsmere, and Indian River Shores. Most of the county is unincorporated, meaning the County Sheriff’s Office has a large jurisdiction.

“Civil Citation was a very slow process but after years of community work we have achieved incredible outcomes. Over 60 percent of all eligible youth are offered Civil Citation instead of an arrest,” said Dapp. With the citation, an intervention is put in place to assist the youth and family.

In addition, another project that the coalition has been focusing on is a very comprehensive prevention strategy for our middle school youth. All middle schools in our community receive Botvin’s LifeSkills Training program, beginning in 6th grade through 8th grade. The curriculum is delivered by the Substance Awareness Center, and consists of a total of 30 lessons.

“Stick with it – don’t give up!” said Dapp. “This is a process that takes patients and time.”