Tuba City DDHS series: drug abuse prevention education

TUBA CITY-In this series, you will come to know of prevention, which is based on principles, science research-based approaches and curriculums. We at the Tuba City Department of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS) hope that the following information will serve to enlighten and increase your understanding of the role of prevention.

The war on drugs begins with drug prevention education. Prevention education is an evolving field. Researchers, educators, and policymakers alike continue to question the effectiveness of various approaches in changing people and especially young peoples' attitudes, behavior and knowledge.

Fortunately, though there are diversities in approaches, the focus is primarily on positive prevention messages. For instance, being drug free is something to be proud of. Increasing children's academic and life skills is an important drug prevention strategy, and proper adult guidance is necessary so that youths will choose to participate in healthy activities. Overall, a crucial and underlying message is the teaching of responsibility for self and others, which is a central component in prevention education.

Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are not new. They have been around throughout recorded history. People in every country, in every generation, and in every era have turned to drugs or alcohol to reduce the hurt and pain of existence and reality or to create a special experience. What is new today is the greater availability of drugs and alcohol and their ever-increasing use by younger age groups. The use of drugs and alcohol has moved from adults to college students, to high school students and now to elementary school children.

In addition, drug/alcohol use and drug/alcohol addiction were once associated entirely with poverty. Drugs and alcohol are now also found among the children of the very wealthy and the well-to-do. What was once an urban problem has reached across the nation to the smaller cities and rural areas including the Navajo Nation communities.

Modern day prevention began in the early 1970s as new information on problems with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs increased awareness that it can lead to various consequences, including depression, learning disabilities, accidents and trauma associated with drinking and driving, violence, long-term health problems, suicidal behavior, etc. Furthermore, this new information and prevention strategy began to be based on drug information and not on scare tactics.

Since 2000, the prevention strategy is now based on drug information, alternatives to drug use, training, partnerships, media campaigns, research based models and curricula, environmental approaches and prevention research (projects and program evaluations).

In general, prevention programs should start early, be comprehensive and repetitively stress key points. Family-focused prevention efforts have been found to have a greater impact than strategies that focus on parents only or adolescents only. Prevention specialists are responsible for carrying out the prevention components in addressing substance abuse, and for utilizing the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) strategies: information dissemination, education, community based development process, alternative activities, Environmental approach, community assessment identification and Referral.

The DBHS utilizes a multisystematic treatment model through: Prevention, Alternative Treatment Services, and Clinical Treatment Services. Prevention is the major and critical component of this model within the DBHS program. The role of prevention is to increase awareness, promote and educate toward a positive increase in physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social health to strengthen resiliency; and to decrease the negative influences of substance abuse. Likewise, the DBHS is committed to improving the level and quality of health, wellness and fitness of each individual affected.

The DBHS prevention program includes traditional prevention and treatment services as well. The services are provided by a full-time traditional practitioner. Traditional services include traditional groups, cultural activities, talking circles, spirituality sessions, ceremonies and sweat lodges. The DBHS prevention curriculum believes in the principle that our traditions, culture or heritage are prevention. In other words, understanding and living our traditional heritage and values are gateways to prevention; therefore, individuals will utilize their heritage to make safe, healthy and drug-free choices.

The DBHS currently employs eight prevention specialists. They receive numerous requests to provide presentations about substance abuse as well as nutrition, exercise benefits, self-esteem, and bullying to schools, families, faith-based organizations, public and private institutions, governmental programs, law enforcement, service groups, and the general public. Since 2004, methamphetamine is one of the most requested topics. In schools, bullying is the most requested followed by marijuana.

All things considered, the Navajo Nation is fortunate to have a well-developed prevention program involving virtually all of the Navajo Nation, agency and community prevention coalitions covering 110 chapters, 21 districts and five agencies. The DBHS prevention projects include: printed brochures (fact sheets), newspaper ads and articles, printed posters, radio and television PSAs (English and Navajo), radio forums, Powerpoint presentations conducted at schools, colleges/universities, chapters, community centers, and various interested organizations, as well as a number of drug-free wellness activities. The DBHS also has a Wellness Center that can assist you in your fitness goals, which a prevention specialist oversees and manages.

We are at an exciting time in the evolution of prevention. We know more about what works in prevention research and programming than we have ever known in the past. College campuses are offering courses in prevention and students can earn degrees in this field.

The following are excellent internet sites and sources for prevention research and information in the prevention of ATOD: www.health.org the site for the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, and www.westcapt.org the site for the Western Regional Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies. We at the DBHS hope that many of you found this information to be instructive and helpful in achieving a clear understanding of the responsibility or role of prevention.

The DBHS is open five days a week, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The DBHS Wellness Center is FREE, so bring your families and friends. It is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Tuba City DBHS is located on Main Street in downtown Tuba City, Building 25, across from the old hospital. For more information please call 928-283-3346.

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