Communities that Care normalizes messages around marijuana, alcohol and tobacco awareness |

Communities that Care normalizes messages around marijuana, alcohol and tobacco awareness

Rather than the scare tactics of old, local nonprofit Community Health Initiatives is working to reduce substance use — and subsequently address depression and anxiety — through science-based prevention strategies.

With headquarters in Glenwood Springs, Community Health Initiatives, and specifically its operating model and planning process known as Communities that Care (CTC), zeroes in on its 18 months worth of data collection to share its message.

Data is compiled from the area school districts, local law enforcement and the state.

“We ourselves have also been out conducting hundreds of interviews and focus groups,” Community Health Initiatives Executive Director Shelley Evans said in a recent interview.

Evans also serves as CTC’s Roaring Fork Valley facilitator.

Unlike the 1980s and ’90s era campaigns, such as First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” crusade, or the Partnership for a Drug-Free America’s “This Is Your Brain On Drugs” anti-narcotics commercials, CTC steers away from slogans.

Instead, it facilitates community support for youth populations experiencing challenging school transitions as well as builds support for stricter ordinances, regulations and requirements for establishments that sell alcohol, tobacco or marijuana.

“We are not talking so much about getting kids to change their behavior. We are talking about the adult influencers in their lives,” Evans said. “…Because, kids do what adults do.”

Evans said that one of CTC’s tasks was to physically count how many advertisements marijuana stores were placing in area newspapers.

According to Evans, not only was the marijuana industry advertising more than the alcohol industry, little to no counter marketing was being done.

“We have that reduced perception of harm around marijuana use from the legalization of marijuana … and it’s become somewhat normalized,” Evans said. “Excessive alcohol use for a lot of people has been sort of accepted in the resort communities. …People come here and they do things they would not do in their home community.”

Evans said CTC wants to change the attitudes, beliefs and norms around substances as well as the stigmas surrounding mental health issues in the adult influencers, specifically.

“Because that is what has been proven through the CTC longitudinal study to make a difference,” Evans said of how reshaping adults and parents’ perceptions around community norms would in turn get passed along to younger generations.

“If your community will change its message around drugs and alcohol, you will see kids change their behaviors and their attitudes.”

Evans explained that CTC was not hoping for a “quick fix” message either, but instead ones that would last for decades to come.

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