The Church of St. Francis of Assisi, the City of Vista, the San Diego county Sheriff’s and the North Coastal Prevention Coalition hosted successful simultaneous Teen Substance Abuse Prevention Community Forums in English and Spanish in early October 2011 at St. Francis Church in Vista. Parents, youth in grades 6-12, and other interested residents attended to hear from a panel of local experts discuss underage drinking and teen substance abuse issues.

According to the 2002-2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, youth who drink alcohol before age 15 are seven times more likely to develop alcohol problems than those who begin drinking at the legal age of 21.  Alcohol is also a contributing factor in the leading causes of death for teens and young adults, including motor vehicle crashes, homicides and suicides (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, G. Smith et. al 1999).  Local data from the 2009 CA Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) for Vista indicate that one in three high school juniors and nearly one in six 7th graders reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. Although alcohol is the most abused drug by youth, abuse of other substances by teens, including marijuana and prescription drugs, is on the rise and also a concern. In 2009, 38% of juniors reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetime, compared to 32% in 2007, representing a nearly 20% increase, while prescription drug abuse by Vista juniors has also increased from 17% in 2007 to 18% in 2009.

The purpose of these forums was to increase awareness for teens, parents and the community of the risks of underage drinking and other teen substance abuse, as well as encourage community efforts to reduce the problem. Both panels included representatives from substance abuse prevention, treatment, law enforcement, education, youth and parent educators.
All of these agencies partnered together in an effort to bring more community awareness to the issue of teen substance abuse, with a particular emphasis on reaching parents of middle school and high school youth.  “We welcome the surrounding community to join us in discussing this critical issue facing young people,” stated Lola Enriquez, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at St. Francis Church.  “Parents play a critical role in discussing alcohol and other drug use with their children.”