A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action
Last Revised: Mar 30, 2011 - Initial Posting: Jan 05, 2007

The Greater Erie Community Action Committee carries out extensive Substance Abuse Prevention activities to assist in the reduction of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use, abuse and addiction and associated consequences.



Growing Up Drug-Free: A Parent’s Guide to Prevention The Greater Erie Community Action Committee (GECAC) provided both education and treatment services under the agency's Drug and Alcohol Services Division to promote drug-free lifestyles.  Substance Abuse Prevention programs were developed to increase awareness of drug effects and to offer youth and adults the means of recognizing the signs and symptoms of chemical dependency, identify high-risk behaviors/attitudes, and reinforce the skills necessary to refuse drugs.  Growing Up Drug-Free: A Parent’s Guide to Prevention (3.6 MB) was made available to parents to use as a reference resource (call 1-877-4ED-PUBS to order copies).

GECAC partnered with area school districts, civic groups, community and public health centers, health care facilities, and businesses to facilitate both single service and recurring programs designed to decrease risk factors associated with drug use and increase protective factors.  Young people were provided not only with specific drug and alcohol education, but also had an opportunity to participate in supervised structured activities that promoted a healthier lifestyle.

Prevention Specialists served as trained facilitators of several evidence-based programs (E) or model programs (M) identified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  These programs have been tested in communities, schools, social service organizations, and workplaces across America, and have provided solid proof that they have prevented or reduced substance abuse and other related high-risk behaviors:

  • Life Skills Training (M) is a multi-level curriculum consisting of three major components that address critical domains found to prevent substance use – Drug Resistance Skills, Personal Self-Management Skills, and General Social Skills.  Developed by Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin in the 1980’s, Life Skills training has demonstrated effectiveness with both urban and rural populations.
  • Project ALERT (E) is a drug prevention curriculum for middle-school a student that dramatically reduces both the onset and regular use of substances.  The 2-year, 14-lesson program focuses on the substances that adolescents are most likely to use: alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and inhalants. Project Alert use participatory activities and videos to help (a) motivate adolescents against drug use, (b) teach adolescents the skills and strategies needed to resist pro-drug pressures, and (c) establish non-drug using norms.
  • Project Northland (E) is a multilevel, multiyear program designed for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders proven to delay the age at which young people begin drinking, reduce alcohol use among those who have already tried drinking, and limit the number of alcohol-related problems of young drinkers.  Project Northland addresses both individual behavioral change and environmental change.  It also strives to change how parents communicate with their children, how peers influence each other, and how communities respond to young adolescent alcohol use - Project Northland curriculum.
  • Class Action (E) is part of the Project Northland school-based alcohol-use prevention curriculum series for Grades 9-12 that significantly reduces increased alcohol use and binge drinking by high school students.  Class Action curriculum uses interactive, peer-led sessions to discuss and debate the consequences of substance abuse, thus changing the social norms around alcohol use and changing negative peer pressure into positive peer pressure.
  • NOT on Tobacco (N-O-T) (M) is a tobacco cessation program serving regular smokers 14 through 19 years of age, who most likely are addicted to nicotine.  N-O-T’s 10-session curriculum trains youth in self management and stimulus control, social skills and social influence, stress management, relapse prevention, techniques to manage nicotine withdrawal, weight management, and peer pressure - see Not on Tobacco website.

GECAC also facilitated the following programs offered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

  • Mind Over Matter designed to encourage young people in grades five through nine to learn about the effects of drug abuse on the body and the brain.
  • Brain Power is NIDA’s Junior Scientist Program consisting of six modules.  The goal of the curriculum is to lay the foundation for future scientific learning and substance abuse prevention efforts by providing an early elementary school-age audience with a basis of knowledge and critical thinking skills.
  • Understanding Alcohol: Investigations Into Biology and Behavior is a middle school curriculum supplement consisting of six hands-on inquiry-based lessons that were developed on the basis of the 5E's instructional model for science education (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate).  In field-testing, the curriculum has taken 1½ to 4 weeks to teach.

Additional tools to prevent the use of alcohol by children ages 9 to 15 are available through the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol-Free national coalition.

Specific tobacco prevention programs include:

  • Teens Against Tobacco Use (T.A.T.U.) to train groups of teens to be T.A.T.U. facilitators.  The curriculum is a tobacco use prevention program that builds decision-making and problem-solving skills.  The four components designed to prevent tobacco use are (a) developing skills to advocate for a tobacco-free community, (b) identifying positive aspects of being tobacco free, (c) understanding how tobacco advertising deceives youth, and (d) understanding how tobacco addiction destroys freedom.  Contact your local chapter of the American Lung Association for more information.
  • Alternatives to Suspension is offered as an option to students who face suspension for violation of the school tobacco-use policy.  The program was developed by the American Lung Association and consists of four sessions of approximately 50 minutes each that address student tobacco use, effects of tobacco use, addiction, healthy alternatives to smoking, and making the change to non-smoker.
  • Smoke’s No Joke is GECAC’s innovative anti-tobacco pledge/media distribution campaign.  In exchange for completing a short questionnaire and anti-tobacco pledge, youth are offered incentives designed to carry the “Smoke’s No Joke” message into their peer group and community.  Locations are targeted where youth commonly present.
  • Additional strategies to prevent tobacco use among youth can be identified through the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Teens Against Tobacco Use  Alternatives to Suspension Program  Smoke's No Joke  Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

GECAC offered school-based prevention services including those described above to all grade levels at area school districts.  Additionally, GECAC supported local Student Assistance Program teams at the secondary level in the identification, referral, and treatment of at-risk or confirmed students with a substance abuse problem.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration/SAMHSA (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is an important resource for planning and development of model prevention programs.  Information can be accessed regarding Funding Opportunities and other specific items including:

National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence PreventionThe National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention offers extensive information and materials to support violence and substance abuse prevention such as:

Office of Safe and Drug-Free SchoolsThe Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (U.S. Department of Education) administers the prevention programs listed below and also offers numerous related Reports and Resources:


In fiscal year 2005-2006, GECAC served over 16,000 people through 2,989 hours of prevention programming.  A total of 1,875 students were offered SAMHSA recognized evidence-based programming and an additional 2,769 youth completed the Smoke’s No Joke anti-tobacco pledge.  251 students and their families were assisted through the Student Assistance Program screening and assessment process.

Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of AmericaGECAC worked to reduce substance use at the county level and facilitated the Favorable Attitudes Toward Drug Use and Perceived Risk of Drug Use scales of the Student Survey of Risk and Protective Factors with recurring prevention activity participants.  This survey and others as described by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) were used to identify shifts in attitude over time, not necessarily specific to any individual program and are used in conjunction with other local statistics to plan prevention efforts [see example of Risk and Protective Factors survey used by Fairfax County, Virginia].


Mike Calhoun, Drug And Alcohol Services Network, Division Manager