Editorial: Teen substance use: A landscape of tolerance

Just last week, we noted an unfortunate finding from a recent survey of Island teens: Many, it turned out, believe the adults in their lives are not terribly concerned about teenage drinking or pot-smoking.

Now, a week later, we have different news to report: The Island’s new Healthy Community Network has secured a large federal grant to attempt to alter those very attitudes.

The network, a coalition of volunteers and Island organizations, received funding from the federal Drug Free Com-

munities Support Program (DFC), housed within the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The funds are to be used not to provide direct support to teens or their families but to

attempt something both harder and potentially more far-reaching: to change the Island’s culture of tolerance around youth substance abuse.

Stephanie Atherton, a prevention manager with the state Department of Social and Health Services, said some communities have used such funds to sponsor alcohol-free community events, block the arrival of new alcohol-selling outlets or undertake other activities that make adult alcohol consumption “a choice rather than an inevitability.”

There’s a direct correlation, she said: When access is reduced, so is consumption.

Is this needed on Vashon? Take a glance at this week’s “Sheriff’s Report” on page 23: Two teens were found passed out in a car, beer cans strewn about, according to the police. A similar incident occurred during Strawberry Festival. Those in the trenches — from therapists to parents — say these reports are the tip of the iceberg; many are struggling to keep their kids safe as they make their way through the teen years.

The Healthy Community Network is to be commended for its hard work — most of it undertaken by volunteers who have day jobs to tend to and families to raise. But they can’t do it alone. It’s esssential that all of us who profess to care abour our Island’s youth support this nascent effort.

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