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Testimony before the

Committee on Health and Human Services


FYs 2015 and 2016 Oversight
Department of Behavioral Health

by
Susie Cambria, Project Co-coordinator
Ward 7 Safe & Drug-free Communities Coalition
and Ward 7 Resident

February 4, 2016

4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE


Suite 202
Washington, DC 20019

(202) 329-8227
info@w7sdcc.org
www.w7sdcc.org

Good morning Ms. Alexander and members of the Committee on Health and Human Services. I
am Susie Cambria, Project Co-coordinator at the Ward 7 Safe & Drug-free Communities Coalition
(Coalition).
The Ward 7 Safe & Drug-Free Communities Coalition was incorporated in 2012 by Ward 7
residents and stakeholders and experts in the field of alcohol and drug use and abuse prevention.
The founders, committed to improving outcomes for children and youth by reducing youth access
to drugs and alcohol, applied for a federal Drug-Free Communities grant. The Coalition has
received federal funding from the White House Office on Drug Policy (ONDCP) and the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) since 2013.

The Coalition's strength is its organization.


The work centers around 12 Sectors. Each
Sector has a Lead and we are in the process
of adding team members to expand the
reach of each Sector and the Coalition more
broadly. Expanding Sector involvement will
also result in an increased effort toward
preventing drug use by children and youth
who live in Ward 7.

What I will talk about today

The Coalition's 12 Sectors


Business
Civic or volunteer group
Government agency with expertise in the
field of substance abuse
Health
Law enforcement
Media
Other organizations involved in reducing
substance abuse
Parent
Religious organization
Schools
Youth
Youth-serving organizations

I am here today to talk about child and youth


drug use in Ward 7 in particular and the very
real need for a strong and robust prevention
strategy. I will also be talking about the new education campaign supported by the Department of
Behavioral Health and the Department of Health. Finally, I will present our views on the latest and
loudest of the public policy issues across the city: pot clubs.
Drugs, youth, Ward 7
The foundation of the Coalition's work is assessment. In 2013 and again in 2015, the Coalition
implemented the Risk and Protective Factor Questionnaire for Grades 6 to 12 (Pride survey) to
identify the status of risk and protective factors that predict various problem behaviors (drug use,
4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE
Suite 202
Washington, DC 20019

(202) 329-8227
info@w7sdcc.org
www.w7sdcc.org

truancy, crime and violence). The survey helps drive the Coalitions strategic action plan, allows
multi-year comparison of data, evaluates prevention goals and objectives, and allows for voluntary
participation. It is used by more than 8,000 school systems throughout the country.
The Pride survey asks all manner of questions ranging from substance use, school involvement,
neighborhood attachment, and safety issues, to parent and peer perceptions regarding drug use.
For the purposes of my testimony today, I would like to highlight past 30-day use of four drugs
(cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs), key protective factors, and important
perception results.
As the "Marijuana Use Among Youth in Ward 7" two-pager indicates, there was a three-fold
increase in 30-day use of marijuana among surveyed middle school students from 2013 to 2015,
from 2.5% to 7.8%. For high school students surveyed, there was a 28% increase from 2013 to
2015, from 24% to 30.7%.
Equally disturbing is the difference in the prevalence of drug use by middle schoolers and high
schoolers. The most recent 30-day use data we have is from 2015 and is illustrated below. While
it is not unusual for young people to try various drugs as they get older, I think we would all agree
that this is troubling and must be addressed through increased prevention initiatives implemented
at the middle school or even lower grade levels.

30-Day Use in 2015, Ward 7 Pride Survey

4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE


Suite 202
Washington, DC 20019

(202) 329-8227
info@w7sdcc.org
www.w7sdcc.org

The increased use of drugs by age is also borne out, although with a much smaller overall
population, by the Pre-trial Services Agency data. The December 2015 drug test report December
2015 Drug Testing Statistics (online: https://www.psa.gov/sites/default/files/CombinedStatsDec2015.pdf), for
example, indicates that 33% of the 12-year-olds, 39% of the 14-year-olds, and 64% of the 16-yearolds tested positive for drug use. All positive tests were for marijuana.

The need for prevention and reducing access


All one needs to do is look at the data to know that there is a huge need for prevention. I think all
would agree.
The DC Council has taken positive action in reducing tobacco use among youth and adults in the
District of Columbia over the last four decades.
And just last year, legislation introduced by Councilmember Alexander, was signed into law by
Mayor Bowser. The legislation limits youth access to alcohol products and alcohol advertising in
the city.
The Blunt Truth Campaign, just introduced by the Department of Behavioral Health and
Department of Health, tackles marijuana prevention in two ways: from a health perspective and
from a legal perspective. The campaign announcement says it best:
Research shows that marijuana use can lead to increased anxiety, panic attacks,
depression, and other mental health problems. Plus, alarmingly, young people ages 12 to
17 who smoke marijuana weekly are three times more likely than non-users to have
thoughts about committing suicide. While some consider marijuana to be a "non-addictive"
drug, studies have shown that frequent use can lead to dependency.
"There are many myths when it comes to marijuana use and its effects on physical and
mental wellness. Its critical that everyone understand the facts about marijuana
consumption." said Dr. Tanya A. Royster, DBH Director and Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt,
DOH Director in a joint statement. (http://dbh.dc.gov/release/district-launches-underagemarijuana-use-prevention-initiative)
Prevention is also important for the myriad other drugs being used by young people: synthetic
drugs, e-cigarettes, and heroin. The K2 Campaign has tackled some, but overall, more is needed.
4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE
Suite 202
Washington, DC 20019

(202) 329-8227
info@w7sdcc.org
www.w7sdcc.org

The Blunt Truth Campaign


The kickoff of this campaign could not have come at a better time. As I've indicated, marijuana use
among 12 to 18 year olds is an individual, community, and public health problem.
Importantly, The Blunt Truth Campaign educates people about the health implications of
marijuana use and provides information about prevention and treatment. It also reinforces that
marijuana use and possession are illegal for individuals under age 21.
Community members and Sector Leads have told us that young people, and even their parents, do
not understand what the current laws are regarding marijuana possession and use. This new
campaign's materialssuch as the brochure, http://drugfreeyouthdc.com/wpcontent/uploads/2015/12/DC-Marijuana-Laws-Tri-fold-Brochure.pdf; myths and facts comparison
http://drugfreeyouthdc.com/theblunttruth/; Marijuana Laws

Palm Card, http://drugfreeyouthdc.com/wpcontent/uploads/2015/12/DC-Marijuana-Laws-PalmCard.pdf make clear what is legal and not and why. That

said, all the good information in the world is not useful if


the information is not widely disseminated and people
are not engaged in conversations about the drug and
myths and facts.
We are looking forward to working with DBH on the
campaign's outreach and education efforts. One
example of how the Coalition and DBH will collaborate is
by making connections. MPD has told us that community
members are craving information about marijuana, the
new law, and the health implications of marijuana use;
I've connected the Sixth District's leadership and the
campaign.
I am also looking forward to hearing that The Blunt
Truth campaign has been effective in educating our
community about marijuana, its laws, and the myths
associate with the drug.
4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE
Suite 202
Washington, DC 20019

(202) 329-8227
info@w7sdcc.org
www.w7sdcc.org

Pot clubs
I cannot let this opportunity pass without pushing back a little on the recent efforts to open pot
clubs. As you know, the Coalition issued a press release accompanied by the two-page fact sheet
"Marijuana Use Among Youth in Ward 7." We stand by our belief that in-depth consideration
needs to be given to the unintended consequences of Initiative 71 before expanding opportunities
for marijuana use and making the drug sexier and cooler than it already appears.
We are pleased that the DC Council decided on Tuesday to create a task force that will consider
whether to open pot clubs as well as the issues surrounding their potential creation, including
their quantity, location, and access rules. I urge you to recommend Lois Callahan to Mayor Bowser
to be added to the task force. Lois, as you know, is the Coalition's director. Lois has more than 25
years of experience in substance abuse prevention and advocacy in Washington, DC. She has
served as Communications and Public Policy Director for the American Cancer Society (1980 to
1996), Project Director for the first The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Tobacco Control
Grant to the District of Columbia (1996 to 2000), and since that time as a substance abuse
consultant to the District of Columbia Public Schools, and the District of Columbia Juvenile
Justice System.
Beyond this, Lois has a long practical history with legislation and public policies regarding tobacco,
alcohol and other drugs. In her work over the years, she has made broad and deep connections to
researchers and other experts in the field. Combined with her keen analytical skills, she would be
a solid and helpful member of the task force.
Conclusion
Ms. Alexander and committee members, we appreciate the opportunity to comment on the city's
actions regarding child and youth alcohol and drug prevention. There is much work to be done but
we are generally hopeful with many of the positive actions being taken by the DC government to
support youth alcohol, tobacco and other drugs use.
I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE


Suite 202
Washington, DC 20019

(202) 329-8227
info@w7sdcc.org
www.w7sdcc.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:


February 1, 2016
CONTACT:
Lois Callahan, Project Director (202) 329-8227, lncallahan.dcyouthfirst@gmail.com
Susie Cambria, Project Co-coordinator (301) 832-2339, scambria@w7sdcc.org

Community Coalition Urges City's Leaders to Put the Brakes on Pot Clubs
Youth use of marijuana, substantially increased in Ward 7 since 2013, is a major concern; further
legislative action may continue to legitimize use among young people
WASHINGTON, DC, February 1, 2016: The Ward 7 Safe & Drug-free Communities Coalition (Coalition)
is calling on Mayor Muriel Bowser and members of the Council of the District of Columbia to pause the
frenzied push for pot clubs until the rise in marijuana use among children and youth can be studied.
30-day use of marijuana by middle school students has increased three-fold between 2013 and 2015,
from 2.8% to 7.8%, according to a survey done in four Ward 7 schools in May 2015. Community leaders of
the Coalition informally report that young people they encounter do not distinguish between
decriminalization and legalization. The recent law and enforcement changes may have led to this
confusion.
Making such important changes in the drug and alcohol landscape should not be taken lightly. It is
incumbent on leaders and community members to have the most and best information available before
making such a historic policy change. If the recent spike in youth marijuana use is, in fact, related to the
2014 change, we can only expect further increases when marijuana use becomes more socially acceptable
among adults.
The Coalition will do several focus groups for parents and young people this year. But this is not enough.
We assert that a full-fledged rigorous study of youth drug use is necessary in order to make policy
decisions based on the full set of facts.

The Ward 7 Safe & Drug-free Communities Coalition is a nonprofit organization, incorporated in the District of
Columbia and organized to promote substance abuse prevention among youth and adults living in Ward 7 in the
District of Columbia. The Coalition promotes prevention through resident education and empowerment.
###

4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE


Suite 202
Washington, DC 20019

p (202) 329-8227
e info@w7sdcc.org
www.w7sdcc.org

Marijuana Use Among Youth in Ward 7


Highlights of the Pride Survey results from four middle and high
charter schools
30-Day Use in MIDDLE School

30-Day Use in HIGH School

Marijuana (2015)

Marijuana (2015)

7.8%
Marijuana (2013)

2.8%

30.7%
Marijuana (2013)

24.0%

The results are staggering:

There was nearly a three-fold increase in 30-day use of marijuana among surveyed
middle school students from 2013 to 2015

The increase among high school students was 28% from 2013 to 2015

4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE, Suite 202, Washington, DC 20019
(202) 329-8227 * info@w7sdcc.org * www.w7sdcc.org

January 31, 2016

Student Perceptions (2013, 2015)


Laws & Norms Favorable to Drug Use
2013

2015

58%

62%

Perceived Availability of Drugs


2013

2015

29%

28%

The most concerning among the


data is Parental Attitudes Favorable Toward Drug Use.

Parental Attitudes Favorable Toward Drug Use


2013

2015

16%

32%

About the data:


The Ward 7 Safe & Drug-Free Communities Coalition uses the Pride survey (Risk and Protective Factor Questionnaire for Grades 6 to 12) to identify the status of risk and protective factors that predict various problem behaviors (drug use, truancy, crime and violence). The survey allows multi-year comparison of data, evaluates prevention goals and objectives, allows for voluntary participation, and is used by more than 8,000 school systems.
The survey was implemented in May 2015 in four schools:
Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public PolicyParkside Middle School, Parkside High School
Friendship Public Charter SchoolBlow Pierce Middle School
IDEA Public Charter School (high school)
The Ward 7 Safe & Drug-free Communities Coalition is a nonprofit organization, incorporated in the District of Columbia
and organized to promote substance abuse prevention among youth and adults living in Ward 7 in the District of Columbia.
The Coalition promotes prevention through resident education and empowerment.

4645 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE, Suite 202, Washington, DC 20019
(202) 329-8227 * info@w7sdcc.org * www.w7sdcc.org

January 31, 2016