Enforcing existing laws, facilitating training opportunities and educating the community will be among the top priorities for the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition in the coming years, newly minted Executive Director David Marquez said on Thursday.
“Part of our mandate is to build capacity for the community, and building capacity means we need to provide the resources and the additional training to parents, educators, even law enforcement officers, those who are involved in the coalition, the business community,” Marquez said.
The Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition was born out of a grass-roots group of La Crescenta parents looking to address illegal alcohol and drug use among the community’s youth. In September, they were awarded a five-year, $625,000 grant through the federal Drug Free Communities Program.
The coalition hired Marquez in January to head their efforts. He was formally introduced to the community Thursday at a reception at the La Crescenta Library.
“Even though it is not that bad here, there are still problems with drugs everywhere,” said Greg Sylvester, 13, a student at Rosemont Middle School. “I think it is good that they are trying to make a difference in the community to make it a better place and safer for kids.”
Marquez, who said he will earn an annual salary of about $60,000 plus a stipend for health-care costs, worked for the last six years for L.A.-based City Solutions, consulting on community and economic development issues. Before that, the Mt. Washington resident was executive director at Central City Neighborhood Partners, a consortium of nonprofit and public agencies that provide social, educational and recreational services in central Los Angeles.
Data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and from nonprofit Glendale Healthy Kids indicate that local youth do not fully understand the risks involved with illegal alcohol and drug use, Marquez said. Teenagers seem particularly uneducated about marijuana, he noted.
“The message is not getting through about the damage that it does to the brain, to the central nervous system, over a long period of time,” Marquez said.
The percentage of La Crescenta youth using alcohol and drugs might not be as high as compared to other communities, but it is happening, Marquez said. And for families with addicted children, it is a crisis.
“The kids in La Crescenta [have] a little more pocket money, there is free time, and the dynamics are different,” Marquez said. “The purchasing of drugs and alcohol do exist; they are just not open.”
Two years ago, La Crescenta resident Susan Dubin said she found herself in crisis with her own child, who was struggling with substance abuse. She reached out to the Glendale Police Department and became one of the founding members of the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition.
She credits strong community support with her child’s turnaround.
“I really think knowing a network of parents and community members has helped keep my older kid … and it has kept my younger kid from falling down that path,” Dubin said.
All parents should invest in making the foothills a drug-free zone, she added.
“Even if your kids aren’t participating in abuse or experimenting [with drugs], they are surrounding themselves with kids that are,” Dubin said. “So how do they navigate that? How do they help their friends?”
Reducing alcohol and drug consumption among teenagers in the community will have collateral benefits, Marquez said, including improved school sites and student academic performance, stronger families and a more hospitable business environment.
“As a community, we are all accountable to try to reduce the risk factors in the community,” Marquez said.