Lancaster County by the Numbers - Indicators of Community Substance Abuse Efforts
To view full report - click on team meeting minutes on home page of SAAC website
Then click on pdf near bottom of list called saacindicatorsreportfinal
In Lancaster County, Nebraska, we pride ourselves in working together to use the strengths and skills of individuals and agencies in communicating what we have to offer and in providing the community with a solid range of easily accessible services. To do our jobs successfully, data is needed to show us how effective we have been and what steps are needed in the future to fill any gaps in services found.
The Substance Abuse Action Coalition (SAAC), formed in 2000, is dedicated to making our communities safe for our youth and young adults. Excessive drinking and the use of tobacco and illegal drugs are risks taken which often result in severe consequences. Costs to society cannot be ignored. Emergency response calls, treatment services, costs for incarceration and our criminal justice systems total millions of unnecessary dollars when we fail in our ability to be responsible. Abuse of alcohol is associated with increased risks for many issues including child abuse, domestic violence, assaults and sexual assaults, as well as driving under the influence and other criminal offenses. We are fortunate if we have not been personally impacted by someone struggling with alcoholism or other substance abuse issues.
Lancaster County is fortunate to have a variety of individuals, groups and agencies making a positive difference. These efforts include ten dedicated community groups working in regional high schools to educate parents, community members, teens and young adults about the harmful effects of alcohol and drug abuse and to encourage strong family and peer support systems. Programs like the School and Community Intervention Program (SCIP) are available for youth and offer early intervention services. A broad range of treatment services are available for youth and adults. Problem solving courts are working well in Lancaster County. We have many committed elected officials working with law enforcement and business owners to discuss problems and find solutions.
At the same time we continue to question what more we need to prevent substance abuse. What are the savings of early intervention and prevention programs in criminal justice dollars in the future? Are youth and adults receiving the services they need? What are the long term impacts of SCIP or any type of prevention programs? Anecdotally, we know we have a problem with misuse and sales of prescription drugs. How do we document these non-scientific reports and make recommendations to curb use? We also know when problems arise, for example a lack of public transportation surrounding the density of bars in downtown Lincoln, partnerships must be created to find solutions.
We recognize that data is the key to assess whether we are making a positive change. And we know all too well change is sometimes slow. Seatbelt and bike helmet use, recycling instead of tossing, landlines to cell phones, even moving from books to Kindles all take time. Facebook and Twitter are household words. They are changes we are making, even if challenging, because we know they will improve our lives.
We invite the entire community: schools, businesses, social organizations, volunteers, professionals, mentors, faith based communities, cultural centers and those in recovery to join the efforts to help those around us. We must all be good role models for our youth. Parents and extended family, neighbors and friends must step up, recognize the risks involved in underage substance use, and stop making excuses for it to continue. The myth that underage drinking or smoking marijuana is a “right of passage” is no longer excusable in our communities.
We are pleased to be able to provide a snapshot of what we are seeing in Lincoln and Lancaster County, Nebraska to show the public what professionals are seeing as a result of behaviors we can control. These indicators represent some of the ways to measure success of our community’s effort to reduce underage drinking and use of illegal substances by youth and adults. We hope the data will be used by agencies, parents and policy makers to make insightful decisions based on this information.
We still have a long way to go.
Progress is not possible without change, and change is not possible without the time, energy, ideas and actions of the people reading this report. We hope everyone who calls Lincoln or rural Lancaster County home finds something interesting or personally relevant in this report. We hope it also encourages more individuals to act. Go to www.saaclincoln.org to become involved and make a difference.
Kit Boesch Patte Newman
Lancaster County Human Services Substance Abuse Action Coalition
Schmeeckle Research Inc.
Research and Evaluation
This report was supported in part by Drug Free Communities (DFC) Grant 5H79SP012199-07.