Partnership works to reduce communitys teen drug and alcohol usage

caines | 7/26/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Often times one of the areas of greatest concern for community members is the youth and how they are faring. In Miamis urban areas, there were causes for concern. Liberty City and Little Haiti youth are using marijuana and alcohol in increasing numbers, according to data collected by the Urban Partnership Drug Free Community Coalition, a drug free community funded by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Agency. According to Vivalora Perkins Smith, the programs coordinator, The missions of the Coalition to reduce alcohol and marijuana usage with underage youth in two targeted communities - Little Haiti and Greater Liberty City and in six targeted schools including Miami Northwestern, Miami Central, Miami Edison Senior High and Charles Drew, Horace Mann and Edison Middle schools. For the past eight months, the coalition, which consists of volunteers from the surrounding community, has been meeting throughout the neighborhood. So, far approximately 123 people have registered as volunteer members of the coalition and meetings attract 40 to 50 people on average, according to Perkins Smith. They represent 12 sectors of the community including religious/fraternal, youth, parents, government, law enforcement, schools, health care/ mental health, substance abuse, youth organizations, media and businesses and elected officials. Perkins Smith explained further, It is a community commitment to help decrease and eliminate these problems that plague our community that draws together this group of dedicated people. To encourage greater community involvement, meetings are held throughout the Liberty City and Little Haiti in places such as the Arthur Teele, Jr. Community Center, the City of Miami Police Station, the Jessie Trice Family Health Center, the Christ Community Church-Gang Alternative, Inc. Center. and even in private living rooms. Why youth turn to drugs, alcohol Perkins Smith believes that there are a number of reasons to account for the rise from the increasing glorification of drinking and getting high in movies to the creation and promotion of substances that have flavors with kiddie appeal such as grape and strawberry. One of their annual efforts to reduce youth substance abuse is their Family Day events to be held in September - a day that was created to raise awareness about the importance of families spending time together. A great opportunity for family bonding time is when families eat together - whether it is around the table, in the car or at a fast food restaurant, according to Perkins Smith. This is where the dialogue of family affairs can take place and represents a common ground that fuels conversation, she explained. Thats the moment when you can go and start talking about the use of marijuana drug use or whatever issues that are impacting your family. The Urban Partnership Drug-Free Community Coalition meeting on the third Thursday of every month. The next meeting will be held in September. For more information about the coalition or to volunteer, please call Vivilora D. Perkins Smith at 305-398-5985 or 305-218-0783 or email vperkinssmith@mygangalternative.org. By Kaila HeardMiami Times Writer