For many people, the disease of addiction is within 6 degrees of separation. You either have someone in your family, have a friend or colleague, or know someone that knows someone who is battling addiction. The silver lining (yes, there is a silver lining!), is that there is something EVERYONE can do….advocate for evidence-based SUBSTANCE ABUSE PREVENTION efforts. You may be asking yourself, “well, how do I do that?” That is exactly why we are here! Take a look at 5 easy ways to get started with becoming (or strengthening your skills as) a substance abuse prevention advocate:
1. Connect with a prevention partner in your area! This a great way to identify what’s currently being done in your community and what activities are missing.
2. Understand the issue. You may already have a good idea of what the problem or issue is in your community.
• Example: An opioid overdose (IN your city or county) is reported on the news at least once a month.
It is important to dig deeper to figure out the root cause of this issue. In this scenario, let’s think about access to opioids. Ask yourself, do we have practices in the area that are overprescribing prescription painkillers? How many people in the community know about safe security and disposal of prescription drugs? How do we get rid of old prescriptions? What’s the average age of those that have overdosed? If they are youth, what type of opioid prevention education is taking place in the school?
AND if your first thought was, “I don’t know where to begin or what questions to ask in order to dig deeper?” Go back to number 1! Connect with someone in your community or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-747-2401.
3. Identify the key influencers in your community.
• Make a list!
Once you figure out what is causing the problem. Who needs to be involved to help you solve it? Who are the decision makers? Who are the community leaders? Who interacts with a lot of parents and can help spread your message?
4. Research your legislators. Find out what type of legislation they’ve passed; what social issues matter to them. Determine if any of their past activities are related to your concern.
• To find out who your legislators are, please follow the steps below:
i. Go to openstates.org
ii. Then type in Georgia
iii. Click on the Legislators Tab
iv. Enter your address in the box on the right to find your representative or senator
5. Reach out to your legislators! If you are feeling confident with steps 1-4, give them a call or send an email to share your concerns. Legislators want to know about community challenges AND reasonable actions they can take to help. Reasonable actions include passing legislation, meeting with you to learn what is being done locally, supporting existing programs/ideas, making a public statement, or other steps. You may not have a single clue about how they can help you, YET! But what about building a relationship? If nothing else, introduce yourself.