Unlike school-based drug education programs or community forums that provide information, environmental strategies are research-based approaches that coalitions use to change the context (environment) in which substance use and abuse occur. They incorporate prevention efforts aimed at changing or influencing community conditions, standards, institutions, structures, systems and policies. The best strategies lead to long-term outcomes. Supporting policies that restrict youth access to alcohol at fairs and festivals, increasing compliance checks at alcohol retail outlets to prevent underage sales, and collecting unused and unwanted prescription drugs in the community (that can otherwise be abused and lead to heroin use) are all examples of environmental strategies.
Strong representation from all community sectors as well as our youth coalition members can harness the community’s power to create change and ensure sustained action on pervasive community problems that have eluded simple solutions. As we like to say, “Local people solve local problems best; communities support what they help to create.” Coalitions enable residents to contribute to making a difference and creating the political will necessary to influence development and implementation of lasting policy.