PC Substance Free began in late 2014 as Getting To Results, a results focused interdisciplinary approach to addressing youth substance abuse in Porter County. Individuals and organizations have been doing great work around youth substance use in the community for many years; PC Substance Free is the next step – connecting those individuals and organizations with each other and with new partners in a collaborative way to get a better understanding of what’s happening in the community and to implement strategies to make a measurable impact toward the result, “All youth in Porter County are substance free.”
Using a Results-Based Accountability (RBA) framework – a data-driven process that starts with the desired result and works backward to what it takes to achieve it – members use data, best practices, and their experiences to identify key strategies to make a difference in turning the curve on youth substance abuse in Porter County. To track their progress, PC Substance Free members identified key indicators to measure the impact toward the overall result. Those indicators are Porter County 12th graders’ reported lifetime use of alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, and heroin. As seen in the chart below, between 2008 and 2014, the percentage of high school seniors who had used alcohol in their lifetimes was slowly declining, but lifetime use of other drugs among high school seniors remained fairly steady. In 2015 and 2016, there were notable declines overall. This dip is probably due, at least in part, to the transition from measuring through the Survey on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use (ATOD) to the Indiana Youth Survey. Annually updating the indicators will allow PC Substance Free members gauge whether they are making an impact on youth substance use, meaning their strategies are successful, or if they should try something else. Community-level data and performance measure tracking at the strategy level also inform these decisions.
The members of PC Substance Free represent a variety of sectors, including the criminal justice system, government, community-based organizations, faith community, education, and health care. Their efforts are laser focused to the areas in which they can make the greatest impact. The group has identified four strategy areas and a result statement for each strategy area:
- Early Identification & Intervention: Build the awareness, knowledge, and skills base of individuals who intervene daily in the lives of youth.
- Positive Youth Development: Prevent youth substance use through engagement in positive youth development activities, with a current focus on teen employment.
- Parent Engagement: Parents and guardians will be committed to being a positive role model and would have and use tools and resources to engage youth in conversations directing them to positive decision making.
- Community Messaging: Support unified, consistent messaging that raises awareness and promotes change.
The PC Substance Free process is not about finding new funding sources to do new things; it’s about how to use/leverage existing resources more effectively, focusing on low cost or no cost strategies. The key is changing how people do their work, not only in PC Substance Free efforts, but at their agencies and in their systems. Shifting toward a collaborative approach, aligning one’s work with that of other partners, making personal action commitments, and holding each other accountable for those commitments, leads to positive change in one’s organization and in the community as a whole.
Utilizing this process, members created work groups around each of the focus areas and identified the most urgent, impactful strategies. Each work group developed action plans outlining specific steps to achieve progress toward the work group result, and ultimately, the overall result. A brief summary of the progress and next steps of each of the work groups is included below.
In the past year, members have been taking action in the four strategy areas, have built relationships with new individuals and organizations, found opportunities for collaboration across agencies and sectors, and have had a tangible effect on the community in several ways. In addition to the efforts of the various work groups, PC Substance Free has had the following impact on the community:
- Contributed to the development and promotion of Heroin: Not a Problem, An Epidemic PSA from the Porter County Sheriff’s Department.
- Facilitated partnerships between the Porter County Community Foundation, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies to make Narcan kits (for use in cases of heroin overdose) available to all law enforcement municipalities and first responders in Porter County.
- Developed and implemented a PC Substance Free messaging plan, which includes collaboration with partners around the community to spread the PC Substance Free message. This includes commitments to display the PC Substance Free window cling on all Valparaiso emergency vehicles, Portage police and fire department vehicles, and Valparaiso Community School buses.
- Facilitated the inclusion of a substance free pledge with the PC Substance Free logo into student portfolios at the Porter County Career & Technical Center.
A great deal of work has been done, but there is still much to do. With the continued efforts of PC Substance Free members and partners as well as support from other individuals and organizations in the community that can contribute to this work, a long-term, sustainable impact can be made to achieve the result, “All youth in Porter County are substance free.”