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Program is funded by Clackamas County and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

A group in Estacada is focused on reducing underage alcohol and marijuana use.

The Estacada Prevention Alliance began meeting via Zoom in November and is funded through a grant Antfarm Youth Services received from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Children, Family, and Community Connections Division of Clackamas County. The goal of the alliance, which includes 30 members from different areas of the community, is to identify the causes of underage alcohol and marijuana use and build evidence-based strategies that will focus on prevention among youths ages 9-20 in the Estacada area.

The group's first meetings focused on examining the root causes of underage marijuana and alcohol use. Team members have also facilitated several youth focus groups.

"We've done the groundwork, and now we can start to plan," said Julie Syring, the program's coordinator.

Several of the group's focuses will be changing the messages that are sent out to youths, as well as utilizing the community's strengths.

"There are a lot of different messages going out," Syring said. "We want to have businesses and organizations give the same message about underage drinking."

They also hope to facilitate additional information about the effects of underage drinking and drug use.

"It's more than just saying no (to drinking and drugs). We want to focus on why we don't do it," she said.

Syring also hopes to change the narrative that the majority of youths are drinking. According to an Estacada School District survey from 2018, 3.7% of sixth graders, 18.4% of eight graders and 25% of 11th eleventh graders said they had taken at least one drink within the past month. When asked if they thought most students have had at least one drink of alcohol, 37% of sixth graders, 57% of eighth graders and 87% of eleventh graders said yes.

Syring said that community support is valuable in helping students form healthy habits.

"It takes a village all coming together, not to replace the parents, but to come alongside parents," she said, adding that the group plans to collaborate with similar organizations in Estacada, including Teen Challenge and Todos Juntos.

She looks forward to the work the Estacada Prevention Alliance will do in the future.

"It's really taken off. The community is really ready for something like this," Syring said. "I've been involved in this community for so long, and I've seen outside programs come and go. I'm excited that this will be completely community owned. We can take ownership in empowering youth in our community."


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