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As of next month, JTNN will celebrate our 16th anniversary. Because that seems like so long ago, it causes me to pause and think about what our place is in the Washoe County community Back in those “olden days” we were just getting started and weren’t even sure of our direction as an organization. All we knew was that we wanted to bring the issue of alcohol and drug problems to a more prominent place in the community’s thinking and we wanted to make sure that prevention and treatment services were available to those that needed them.

One of my values as the Executive Director of JTNN is that we should always do something. Every meeting, every campaign, every effort we make should move us toward action. The other value that JTNN and I hold is that we can only operate successfully in the context of having many partners and coalition members involved in the work that we all do together.

So in that vein, here are some of the action items we’re working on to promote and maintain a healthy community:

• Right now we are launching several public service announcements aimed to create a norm in the community that it’s not OK to serve alcohol to your underage children. We know that serving alcohol to youth under 21 increases their chances of becoming addicted later. We look forward to how this campaign pans out. Of course, our other media projects continue to educate the community about heroin, designer drugs such as “bath salts” and “spice,” and marijuana.

• JTNN is reaching out to the Hispanic community through three Spanish speaking health workers who identify people in need of substance abuse, mental health, medical, and social service help. This is a prevention program that is very proactive and is connecting with a very underserved part of our population.

• Since 2009 we have continued to partner with the Reno PD, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and many other organizations to put on the twice a year prescription drug Round Ups in which people can bring their unwanted prescription drugs to six or seven sites in the community on an appointed day. 2013 is a significant year for this four year old project as this is the year we surpassed 1 million pills collected. That is 1 million unused, unwanted pills that are not in people’s homes or in the water system.

• JTNN has continued to work on the Reno Pub Crawls in an effort to prevent underage alcohol access in these events. The pub crawls are popular events that often include costumes (Santa Crawl, Zombie Crawl, Superhero Crawl, and more). It is often difficult for bartenders and servers to properly identify underage drinkers who are deep into their character for the night. This partnership has been working with the Crawl organizers, bars and clubs, and several law enforcement agencies along with many other groups, resulting in decreased underage alcohol access in these events.

• In the 2013 Nevada Legislative session, a law was passed (Senate Bill 374) that authorizes cities and counties to allow medical marijuana dispensaries. While JTNN has not taken an official position on medical marijuana, our concern has to do with the fact that any dispensaries allowed by Reno, Sparks, or Washoe County must be held accountable to the highest standards of public safety and health. This includes not selling medical marijuana to underage (under 18) youth, insuring that the dispensaries are operated in compliance with state laws, and more. We are working with a number of partners in this effort, including Reno P.D., City of Reno Code Enforcement, Reno City Council, UNR, and more.

• Just last month, JTNN staff and partners attended a training called, “Mental Health First Aid.” This is a program that enables those trained to recognize people that may need support or help with a mental health issue. It is a prevention program that will be spread in the community as those trained will train others in the community in how to help others in need.

• Finally, we are working on our next version of the Washoe County Comprehensive Community Prevention Plan. This plan includes local data on alcohol, drug, mental health, and other wellness measures. The data is worked into a plan that will guide our funding efforts and provide JTNN with information that will enable us to be accountable to the community and to make the best use of our resources. Right now we fund 9 prevention programs in the community based on the data and information from the last Prevention Plan.

Right now we fund 9 prevention programs in the community based on the data and information from the last Prevention Plan.

I could go on but I wanted to make a couple of points. One is that after 16 years we are still moving forward and getting things done in the community. Second, while our mission still leans heavily toward alcohol and drug issues, we are branching out into mental health wellness, community outreach (via the Health Workers mentioned above), and we are looking for ways to “cast a wider net” in that alcohol and drug issues don’t operate in a vacuum. These problems operate in the context of families, neighborhoods, schools, mental health problems, health care issues, and much more. As time moves on, we’ll be focusing more in this way.

We have 16 years under our belts and not only are we continuing to move forward, we are looking forward to at least another 16 years!

Kevin Quint, Executive Director