Oregon City coalition member: Preventing youth drug use is a collective responsibility

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Oregon City Together is a coalition of concerned individuals and organizations working to prevent youth substance use in Oregon City. The coalition reflects the commitment of varied sectors of our community including education, parents, business, youth, law enforcement, government, and civic and faith-based organizations.

The coalition began its important work more than 12 years ago. During this time, it has invested $2.6 million dollars worth of cash and in-kind contributions in evidence-based prevention in Oregon City. It has generated many positive results. Oregon City Together’s most recent annual parent survey shows an increase in the number of parents who talk to their children about the risks of early drug use. This same survey also shows Oregon City parents are more aware of the dangers of fentanyl than they were two years ago. Fewer youth use marijuana and alcohol than they did in 2018 according to the 2022 Oregon Student Health Survey.

But we cannot rest. The list of risks is far too long. Eight approved marijuana retailer licenses in Oregon City means our youth are exposed to marijuana advertising everyday, creating an environment normalizing drug use. Mental health services for youth are insufficient increasing the likelihood of self-medication to reduce anxiety. Many youth do not feel connected to the community or their school. There are not enough activities for youth. It is far too easy for youth to obtain drugs in Oregon City and from social media.

Adding greatly to all these risks is the influx of fentanyl. Oregon City and Oregon are awash in deadly fake pills.

Addressing these risks requires an ongoing collective effort. By working together, we can better address the protective factors that help keep youth safe. Increase awareness of the risks. Reduce access to drugs. Support community activities for young people. Increase mental health services. Ensure youth and their families have the understanding, knowledge and skills to reduce stress and anxiety. Educate youth to have good life skills such as communication, good decision-making and problem-solving.

Now is the time to step up and join Oregon City Together. Be part of the solution! Help foster a positive environment that supports healthy choices and behaviors. An environment where young people can thrive, learn and grow, without the burden of substance abuse and addiction.

The coalition meets monthly. It also sponsors topic-specific work groups, like its community fentanyl awareness work group. Learn more at octogether.org.

Pam Wilson is a recently retired coalition coordinator who now serves as a coalition member of Oregon City Together.

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