COALITION: Ward 8 Drug Free Coalition

CITY/STATE: Washington, D.C.

Population: 75,000
Boundaries: Ward 8 (Far Southeast DC)

The Ward 8 Drug Free Coalition is dedicated to serving all neighborhoods in Ward 8 (Far Southeast DC). In 2007, their targeted community was the Hillsdale neighborhood and its immediate surrounding neighborhoods of Barry Farm and Park Chester. As they have progressed, they are now servicing the entire Ward 8 community of approximately 75,000 residents.

Data from the Drug-Free Coalition Cross-Site National Evaluation Survey from youth in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 in Ward 8 of Washington, DC revealed several significant findings. Youth between the ages of 11-17 are using marijuana and neighborhood convenience stores and gas stations in Ward 8 are selling drug paraphernalia to these youth. The leaders of the Ward 8 Drug Free Coalition also noticed the high prevalence of drug use among minors and the large amounts of drug paraphernalia being sold in neighborhood convenience stores and gas stations. Coalition leaders recognized the dangers of youth exposure to these products and their effects on the Far Southeast DC region.

The coalition was created with the important goal to advocate for the elimination of drug paraphernalia being sold in stores with a Class B license which permits groceries and wholesale stores to sell beer and wine. With the support of Phil Pannell, Executive Director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council, they helped educate the community on the issue and developed a strategic plan to address this very challenging social ill. Their work was instrumental in the passage of the DC Council’s 2007 amendment of the Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982, which further limited merchants in the District of Columbia from selling various types of pipes, cigar/rolling papers and other drug paraphernalia.

To be successful and ensure effective environmental change, the coalition directly engaged Ward 8 youth, providing leadership opportunities and a plan to deter peers from using alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. Their work with youth involved training sessions, logo contests for the coalition, bus advertisements, anti-drug music writing, participation in the national “Above the Influence” Campaign, and youth education conferences. In 2012, coalition youth led a major walk event around Ward 8 convenience stores to assess access to drug paraphernalia, including the participation of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.

The following partners contributed the most significantly to the effort:

The coalition’s success with the Drug Paraphernalia Act amendment was used as inspiration to continue influencing the DC region. By creating an environment for youth to plan and lead community events, the coalition became successful in its efforts. Their creation of anti-drug music, youth conferences, and training sessions educated the Ward 8 Community on the dangers of substance abuse and resulted in numerous opportunities for youth to be active community leaders and change agents. Click Here to Read More.

Lessons Learned:
Throughout its youth engagement initiatives, the coalition learned the importance of meeting specific community needs and addressing local conditions. Just as it is important to “meet people where they are,” so too is it essential to “meet communities where they are.” Every community possesses distinctive characteristics which require tailored solutions to problems. Therefore, it is important to engage the entire community because they have the experience and answers to meet their unique conditions. Click Here to Read More.

This information was provided in 2014 by the Coordinator of the DC Ward 8 Prevention Coalition.

Coalition Website

Tools and Resources for Coalitions