By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
A new survey done by PreventionWorkz shows improvement in some areas, but still a need for efforts to combat drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse.
The results of the 2012 Oklahoma Prevention Needs Assessment survey for Garfield County showed some surprising changes, but also some emerging problems, said Sean Byrne, PreventionWorkz executive director.
According to the data, there was a significant decline in past 30-day underage alcohol use from 2008 to 2012 for eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders. The survey showed 15.8 percent of eighth-graders had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days in 2012, down from 28.4 percent in 2008. For high school seniors, alcohol use fell from 53.2 percent in 2008 to 42.2 percent in 2012.
“ I think this shows without a doubt that when a community works to address issues, and they have the funding, knowledge and resources available, that prevention does work,” Byrne said.
All of the agencies and people involved in both of those issues should be proud of their success, he said.
Garfield County Drug and Alcohol Coalition and NW Tobacco Free Coalition are the driving collaborative forces behind the results, Byrne said.
One major need did appear, however — marijuana use by underage people grew significantly. Marijuana use increased significantly among 10th-graders. In 2008, 10 percent of 10th-graders admitted to using marijuana, while in 2012, the number grew to 16 percent. Among 12th-graders, the survey showed 11.2 percent used pot in 2008, compared to 18.3 percent in 2012.
Prescription drug use tripled among 12th-graders, increasing from 3.2 percent in 2008 to 9.6 percent in 2012.
Byrne said he was surprised at the decrease in the underage drinking rate. He called it a very impressive decrease.
“You usually don’t see those types of numbers within that short a period of time. What’s unfortunate is the increase in marijuana use, but it’s not surprising,” he said.
Byrne said there has been significant education on the issue, plus work with retailers discussing why they should not sell alcohol to underage youths.
“I think it shows when an issue is funded, prevention is effective. We’ve been working on it for several years now and seeing good results now from all that work in the areas we focused on,” Byrne said. “But you put out a fire in one area and it flares up in another.”
Funding strategy for prevention efforts is dictated by funding sources, he said. Byrne will take the survey data to possible donors and look at the emerging needs. It ultimately is the decision of the funding source where the focus will be, he said.
Byrne said he would like to diversify investments so they can work on more than one issue.
“That may mean reaching out to the United Way, various foundations and showing them the need and asking them to invest,” he said.
Byrne knows the return on their investment donors are receiving. The people affected are their future workers who may suffer from drug or alcohol problems and be less productive. This is a community- wide issue that affects everyone, he said.
PreventionWorkz has obtained a state incentive grant focusing on prescription drug use. Byrne said problems drastically increase in the senior age group. PreventionWorkz is working with seniors in a number of areas, including prescription drug drop-offs and other strategies. He hopes there will be an effect on youths as a result of the work with adults.
“The survey says in general, we’re doing a good job on the things we have the resources and money to focus on. There are still some areas needing to be addressed,” he said.
Byrne said PreventionWorkz and other organizations need additional funding to work on problem areas. There are some issues where a slight change can have a positive effect, he said. For example, the work with retailers showed they were doing a good job. The survey showed fewer youths obtained alcohol from retailers than from home or from another adult.
“Hosting underage parties is not safe and it’s not legal,” he said.
Another concern for Byrne is the number of kids who met the clinical criteria for alcohol-abuse treatment. He called the number significant, especially given the low number of treatment facilities in Oklahoma. The state does not have enough treatment providers or enough funding to pay for treatment, either in-patient or out-patient, he said.
“I’ve seen those who want treatment have to wait weeks, even months, to get in, and that’s a big problem,” he said. “We need to prevent it from happening, but realize some are experiencing it and need treatment resources.”