SEDRO-WOOLLEY — A push to keep youths from abusing drugs and alcohol is underway in Sedro-Woolley.
The Sedro-Woolley School District was recently awarded a two-year Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative grant that has helped the community form a coalition to identify its needs when it comes to drug prevention.
“One of the things I believe our community will focus on is building resiliency in youth,” said Jada Trammell, who was hired by the school district to be the Community Coalition coordinator. “How can they learn to say no?”
While the district is the financial recipient of the $200,000 grant from the state Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, Trammell said the coalition is designed to include the community, not just the school.
“It’s a communitywide education drive,” she said. “The school district is willing to take this on for our entire community.”
The grants to form these coalitions have been awarded since 2011, Trammell said. Eighty-two communities statewide have received them, including Concrete and Mount Vernon.
“There’s a proven track record that these coalitions do make change,” Trammell said.
According to data from the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery and the IMPACT Research Lab at Washington State University, 83 percent of communities that received the grant in 2013 — the year Concrete first received a grant — had significant reductions in cigarette smoking, binge drinking and early initiation of substance use.
“The grant is a great opportunity for the Sedro-Woolley school community,” said Sedro-Woolley School District Superintendent Phil Brockman. “Having an opportunity to work with our community leaders in regard to prevention, intervention and wellness of our students is something we have never had before.”
The coalition, Brockman said, allows the community to understand the problem and find solutions, especially with a rise in student use of marijuana and vaping.
“It literally comes down to life and death,” Brockman said. “I’ve gone to too many funerals for students because they have made poor choices around drugs and alcohol and other risky behaviors.”
The key, Trammell said, is making it a community effort.
“Your community knows your community,” she said. “They know the problems, they know the best way to find solutions.”
At Cascade Middle School, some students have noticed drug and alcohol abuse starting to become a problem, a group of students told Trammell on Wednesday.
“I don’t think some people realize the negative effects of it,” eighth-grader Tove Schweizer said.
The coalition is hoping to get youth involved as well, Trammell said.
“I feel like there is help out there for those things,” said eighth-grader Cohen Boyd. “But I feel like some of those kids are embarrassed about it.”
Keeping the conversation going about drug abuse and addiction is important, said Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki, who attended the coalition’s first meeting.
“Breaking the code of silence around what addiction is and how it affects people and families, being willing to talk about it like we talk about any other topic,” she said. “Treat it like the disease that it is.”
Janicki said she learned through the Skagit County opioid work group that nearly 80 percent of addictions are formed by the age of 15.
“It underscores the urgency to work with the students and the counseling community and the people who are around those kids all day,” she said.
Janicki, whose son Patrick died of a drug overdose in 2017 at the age of 30, said having the community involved is helpful in finding solutions.
“I honestly think we have to get upstream on the addiction issue,” she said. “This is just a wonderful investment of public monies to provide education where we can change our own future, define our own future.”
The coalition will hold regular meetings, Trammell said, and all are invited to attend or contact her at email@example.com for more information.
The next meeting will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Sedro-Woolley High School library.
“Our goal is to have as much participation as possible,” Trammell said. “This is their community. I want to build the community, and build our future for our kids.”