THE NATIONAL ISSUE
As they grow, our youth face many challenges—substance abuse,
delinquency, violence, school dropouts, and teen pregnancy.
Even if they are not directly involved in problem behaviors, they
know friends who are and they are affected by them. While experts agree that prevention is an effective tool for combating youth problems, most communities focus on treatment only after the behaviors are already apparent. In this country, the combined
costs of these problems exceed $200 billion every year in
lost productivity, health care, law enforcement, and treatment.
COMMUNITIES THAT CARE — A STRATEGIC APPROACH
Communities That Care is a national community-based system, through which business leaders, human service workers, elected officials, parents, and volunteers work together to identify risk factors within their own communities, evaluate protective factors that may already exist, and plan and carry out strategies that
address both. The shared vision and sense of purpose, coupled with programs that both enhance protective factors and prevent unhealthy behaviors blend to form strong, positive communities.
The Communities That Care model takes information from national scientific research, identifying risk factors that lead to health and behavior problems in youth and the protective factors that can help them deal with these influences. The Communities That Care model combines this knowledge with a public health approach. Using survey data specific to the Centre Region, a powerful base
of information is formed upon which specific prevention and intervention projects can be built.
THE CENTRE REGION APPROACH
Using the Communities That Care model, the Care Partnership, which focuses on the State College area, has spent the last five years surveying community members, collecting data, and developing programs to address the specific risks identified by that data. In addition, they have assessed existing programs for youth and focused planning on strengthening those programs that protect youth from the identified risks.
The Care Partnership has established or strengthened more than a dozen specific programs that address the issues as specifically identified by the youth of the Centre Region in recent school-based surveys. Communities That Care does not offer “quick-fix” programming but rather sustainable, community-wide change designed to be interwoven into the very fabric of our community.
WHAT MAKES THE CARE PARTNERSHIP DIFFERENT?
It is important to note that many of the programs we support are based on proven, research-based initiatives and services. We know what initiatives work, and we are drawing upon that research to advance the development of programs in the Centre Region. When used within the context of our Region’s specific issues, the science will help us to guide our youth toward productive and happy adulthoods, thus strengthening our community for generations to come.
The Care Partnership strives for both effectiveness and efficiency, not adding another layer of bureaucracy but trying to work with other agencies to reduce duplication of services, to fill in gaps in services and programs, and to target resources. We are changing the way our community supports youth by empowering organizations to do what they do best.
HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE CARE PARTNERSHIP
The Care Partnership was formed in 1996 and was comprised of five committee members from various areas of the community: a representative from law enforcement, two county drug prevention specialists, an intervention specialist, and a parent volunteer.
The Partnership recognized a need to coordinate community prevention efforts for youth in the Centre Region and to have a coordinating organization to maintain data and a listing of the services available. The group was motivated by the mission of mobilizing all facets of our community to maintain a healthy, safe, and productive environment by facilitating the coordination of community resources that address alcohol, tobacco, and other drug issues; assess the data and behaviors that impact our community profile; recommend ways for the community to enhance their impact on the environment, and evaluate the effectiveness of the entire community’s efforts.
In 1999 the Care Partnership began to explore the Communities That Care model, which is aimed at reducing risk and increasing protective factors within a community. During that time, the Partnership saw a need to expand and to include other community members and human service agencies. As a result, a thirteen-member steering committee consisting of parents, law enforcement officials, district justices, a physician, health and human service providers, faith-based organizations, business owners, and other members of the community was formed and five members were sent to the Communities That Care key leader training. The committee assumed the responsibility of drafting the Communities That Care grant application, broadening participation in the Care Partnership and developing a community-wide strategy to support Centre Region youth.