NAMI And Drug Coalition To Combine Programs




After 10 years serving Blaine County in drug and alcohol abuse prevention, the Drug Coalition will integrate specific programs into other local nonprofit organizations, including law enforcement, schools and NAMI.

Since its inception, the Drug Coalition has developed many prevention initiatives and, since 2010, has run programs at both the Wood River Middle School and Wood River High School. With the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Wood River Valley (NAMI-WRV) also developing youth programming, both organizations agreed to partner from now on in order to reduce nonprofit costs in the Valley and create a stronger unity. The Drug Coalition will cease to be a separate entity.

The first collaborative event will be a kickball game held from 12-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at the O’Donnell Park baseball field in Bellevue.

After that “kick-off,” the Bluebirds Teen Mental Health Support Group and the Bluebirds Club, an after-school program, will meet once a week to design and participate in healthy after-school activities.

The joint efforts include the Prescription Drug Take-Back Program, which offers safe places to return unused prescription medications. These med-return boxes are available at many locations, such as pharmacies, in the Valley.

Retail compliance checks have been running several times a year at liquor stores and other locations where beer and wine are sold to ensure that youth are not being sold alcohol. Retail compliance has risen to nearly 100 percent since the beginning of this program.

The Drug Coalition passed several social hosting ordinances in which parents could be held criminally responsible for underage drinking in their homes. Most of these initiatives will be absorbed into the community by their respective areas of enforcement.

The Drug Coalition has always prioritized outreach to youth. This will continue with the combined programming and rebranding from Idaho Drug-Free Youth to the Bluebirds.

“At a roots level, the organizations share the same message,” said Emilee Struss, former director of the Drug Coalition. “It doesn’t matter your background, gender or race, the Bluebirds Club is a place for you to belong, to be heard and to feel safe.”

         All Valley youth may spend time in the former Drug Coalition’s “safe zone” offices inside the Community Campus in Hailey, to chat, enjoy snacks provided by The Hunger Coalition or simply take advantage of a space to study and work on homework.

The Bluebirds Club is designed for proactive and compassionate students, with their peers and school staff, to give and receive support for everyday challenges. As well, it advocates for de-stigmatization in looking for peer support. With the support of school staff, this program allows students to offer each other encouragement, advice and advocacy, while also allowing for privacy in difficult times.

“The only requirement to be a part of the Bluebirds program is to be you,” Struss said.

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