For the Sun-News 2:02 p.m. MST November 1, 2015

 

October’s National Substance Abuse Prevention Month brought a monthlong focus on drug abuse prevention, but prevention specialists and the White House are encouraging Americans to focus on prevention efforts all year long.

 

In 2011, President Obama issued the first presidential proclamation designating October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month as a fundamental element of the president’s national drug control strategy.

 

“Together, by promoting evidence-based prevention programs, we can provide individuals with the tools and information they need to make smart choices, avoid needless tragedy and lead healthy, fulfilling lives,” the proclamation states.

 

That needless tragedy recently hit close to home. Damon Perry, 23, of Prewitt, New Mexico, is accused of beating to death 23-year-old Christopher Paquin on Oct. 22 because he believed Paquin was becoming a zombie. Perry had been consuming vast amounts of alcohol and binge-watching AMC’s hit series, “The Walking Dead.”

 

“Over-consumption of alcohol occurs at all ages. Our goal is to begin targeting individuals in their early teenage years to provide information on the risks that come with alcohol over-consumption,” said Unified Prevention! (UP!) Coalition Program Manager Marisol Diaz. “UP!’s prevention efforts are designed to avoid tragedies such as this one.”

 

Through a community collaboration approach, UP! Coalition for a Drug-Free Doña Ana County, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, is working to increase community participation and investment. The UP! Coalition is excited to welcome the Women’s Intercultural Center of Anthony, New Mexico, as its newest member.

 

“Having organizations in our immediate and surrounding communities that are dedicated to preventing substance use and abuse is vital,” Diaz said. “This is a community issue and it requires the commitment of community members and organizations to create positive change.”

 

To increase prevention efforts, UP! educates and informs the public about the risks of substance use and abuse. Coalition partners like New Mexico State University’s Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education program (WAVE) offer the ability to inform the community at large.

 

WAVE is working on prevention efforts on the NMSU campus and as a result of the UP! Coalition partnership, will now be working with Doña Ana Community College students to increase awareness of the fourth degree alcohol felony. The UP! Coalition believes a collective approach and partnerships are key to its success.

 

“We will continue to establish partnerships and collaborate on community events to educate community members and raise awareness,” Diaz said. “Our goal is to reduce substance abuse and create an informed community.”

 

The Unified Prevention! (UP!) Coalition for a Drug-Free Doña Ana County is an initiative of the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico. For more information on the UP! Coalition call 575-521-4794.