B.G. forms alliance to fight drug problems

Citizens pledge to work together in a comprehensive way

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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A Battle Ground group is aiming to combat substance abuse on a large scale, regardless of whether the organization gets a 2013 federal grant.

About 25 community members met Monday at Faith Center on Northeast 117th Avenue to talk over dinner about how to deal with north Clark County's substance abuse problems. They have named themselves Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevention Alliance, and while they are applying for a $500,000 Drug-Free Communities grant, the group's members are not hinging their work on that funding.

"It has to come from our willingness to do whatever it takes to make it happen," said Battle Ground Mayor Lisa Walters. "We have to rely on ourselves in north county. If it's not ourselves, we're in trouble."

The Battle Ground alliance hopes to replicate successful programs from Vancouver and Portland, so people won't have to go outside the city limits for help.

Community members were enthusiastic at the session. They identified service gaps and goals for the new alliance. Sean Chavez, Prevent! coalition coordinator at Educational Service District 112, helped organize and prioritize the ideas.

Chavez is also helping train group members in prevention science and in applying for grants.

He said the alliance wants to take a new and comprehensive approach to substance abuse, tackling drug prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.

One goal outlined during the evening is to change the social environment and create a consistent message supporting positive healthy behavior. Battle Ground needs more fun, fulfilling things for kids to do, community members said. Among the ideas suggested was a mentorship program, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.

"We're not empowering our community to be mentors. The invitation is not there," Chavez said.

The group also discussed the disconnect between the drug education kids learn through schools and programs and what they experience at home. They hope to offer more parent-information nights and develop educational programs.

The group plans to meet again in January.

Anyone interested in joining or helping the alliance can email Sean Chavez at sean.chavez@esd112.org