Bethany Freudenthal, Las Cruces Sun-News
Published 4:21 p.m. MT Oct. 7, 2019
LAS CRUCES – Over the last five years, the Unified Prevention Coalition of Doña Ana County has worked to confront opioid and drug addiction in southern New Mexico, with measurable results.
On Monday, they were honored with an award in Washington D.C. at the National Red Ribbon Week celebration, hosted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and First Lady of the United States Melania Trump.
For the past five years, the coalition — which is administered under the Center For Health Innovation — has focused on preventing drug use and addiction in youth and young adults.
In that time, UP has recorded a 68 percent decrease in parents providing alcohol to youth, a 24 percent increase in parents locking up prescription medications and a 25 percent decrease in the sharing of prescription medications.
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CHI Director of Prevention and Community Collaborations Marisol Diaz was on hand in the nation’s capital to receive the award, a plaque and $1,000.
Diaz said Trump thanked her for all of the work the coalition has been doing.
“When I was up onstage with her, she asked that I continue to protect our children,” Diaz said.
The UP Coalition works with community partners to achieve its goals. One of those partners is the Sun-News, which publishes a biweekly column from the group.
“We work with a lot of agencies who provide direct services for youth. The work that we do is focused around policy change, systems change and education,” Diaz said.
UP Coalition’s current project is working on keeping alcohol use and drug consumption out of Las Cruces Public Schools, she said.
“We’re partnering with law enforcement to remove prescription drugs from homes when they’re unwanted, unused and unneeded anymore. We’re also doing an educational series on marijuana,” Diaz said.
They’re also working on a data project called SHIFT to increase access to data about drug and alcohol abuse increase understanding of the data to enhance local advocacy, she said.
“We’ve had a lot of really great successes in the last five years. I took the project over about five years ago the DEA talks about the statistical changes we’ve seen in the last five years in part because of the work the coalition does with many of its partners,” Diaz said.
Diaz said it was humbling to accept the award in Washington D.C. on behalf of the community and the coalition, to ensure kids have other options than to use drugs.
“What an honor to represent a vibrant community from the nation’s capital. It was very honoring. it highlights our efforts and puts it in the spotlight. The whole experience was amazing,” she said.
Diaz said participating in the National Red Ribbon Rally also allowed her to see first hand the work the DEA is doing with other local coalitions.
The Fort Bliss Army Substance Abuse Program, Prevention and Education Services also won an award during Monday’s ceremony in Washington D.C. As a result of the unit’s endeavors, Fort Bliss has the lowest rate of positive drug tests within large Army installations.
More from the UP Coalition:
- Unified Prevention Coalition adds new staff to assess impact of alcohol on youth
- UP! Coalition welcomes new program specialist
- Grant awarded to combat drug use in county
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