Prevention work gets big boost from grant

By Sue Cody

W2W Drug Free Community - Carly CastanedaHow does a community combat drug, alcohol and tobacco use by its youth?


Empowering youth and adults is the answer, North Coast Prevention Works Coalition believes. “We want to empower people to feel like they have ownership over their community, and be part of the change,” says Carly Castaneda, program director for a Drug Free Community grant.


The Drug Free Community grant is for $125,000 for each of five years and renewable for another five years. Given to North Coast Prevention Works by the Oregon Community Foundation, it is funded by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). This is the seventh year in a row that the coalition has applied for the grant.


Now with the grant, the coalition has the staff and support it needs to provide education to youth and adults designed to help them live healthy lifestyles.


“It can add $1.2 million to fight substance abuse in Astoria and Warrenton,” says Debbie Morrow, a member of the coalition, Warrenton School Board and The Way to Wellville Strategic Council.

W2W Awards 1 FB“Every kid deserves the opportunity to achieve,” says Morrow. To that end, North Coast Prevention Works presented Youth Recognition Awards to students who have faced some sort of adversity, whether it is a learning disability, physical challenge, separation from parents or other setbacks, and still managed to thrive. The goal is to provide training so kids have confidence in what they know to stand in front of their peers and show what is acceptable behavior, Castaneda says.


On May 25, about 50 people gathered at The Red Building in Astoria to honor six students for their achievements and three adults as asset builders. Awards are given to residents of the grant focus area in Astoria and Warrenton.



Youth Awards went to:

  • Abi Danen, Astoria High School (AHS)
  • Jadelynn Pickering, AHS
  • Nayeli Lopez, AHS
  • Landree Miethe, Warrenton High School (WHS)
  • Alma Bolanos, WHS
  • Jeff Lafferty, WHS 


Asset Builder Award honors:

  • Mike Davis, Warrenton Grade School (WGS
  • Carrie Kaul, Astoria Middle School
  • Michael McClure, WGS



W2W Awards 3 FBThe grant’s focus

The Drug Free Community grant focuses on indirect services and capacity building in the community. It addresses the root causes and the environment in which substance abuse is happening, Castaneda says.


The grant requires inclusion of 12 sectors, such as health care, law enforcement, youth groups, businesses, civic groups, nonprofits, media and others. One goal is to create listening sessions in Astoria and Warrenton to identify problems within each community and see what the landscape is, Morrow says.


“We aim to bolster up people who are already doing the work, create better systems and policies that encourage healthier choices, resiliency and better quality of life for families,” Castaneda says.

W2W Awards 4 FBMorrow says positive change is organically happening with Way to Wellville, CHART, Connect the Dots, schools, etc. “We now have money to help support and strengthen that work.”


Substance abuse prevention reduces teen pregnancy, delinquency, mental health issues and the list goes on and on, Castaneda says. The Way to Wellville and its sponsor, Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization encourages these efforts to create healthy lifestyles.


In the fall, Vanessa Garner, the youth program coordinator, will create youth coalitions at Astoria and Warrenton high schools. “We want to put youth at the center,” says Castaneda.


Castaneda’s experience at Ilwaco High School with a youth coalition had a positive impact on the community. Many adults did not know the laws or health impacts of marijuana on the brain. The youth coalition was trained, did research and gave presentations to the middle school and high school staffs along with the city council.

W2W Awards 2 FB“It is dynamic when you give youth the opportunity to speak,” Castaneda says. Most students are doing good things, but they internalize the negative images society thrusts upon them by focusing on the few who are misbehaving. It is more important to promote the good things that are happening than focus on the bad.


“Youth are hungry to make change,” Castaneda says. “They can become the experts and train the adults.”