Apache Junction Drug Prevention Coalition working since 2008

Editor’s note: The Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent e-mailed more than a dozen local nonprofits a list of questions. This is from the Apache Junction Drug Prevention Coalition.

The Apache Junction Drug Prevention Coalition is a group of like-minded individuals who are working to build a safe and drug free community in Apache Junction. We began in 2008. Business owners, city staff, the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent, mental-health workers, school district administration and community members all came together in an effort to work to improve drug abuse prevention in our community. We have a fairly strong Facebook page/presence at https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=apache%20junction%20drug%20prevention%20coalition%20-%20 (ajdpc)

We met with Cindy Shrader, the former Casa Grande Alliance chairwoman, to learn how to create a coalition. Casa Grande Alliance was one of the first Drug Prevention coalitions in existence. They have been a great support for Apache Junction Drug Prevention Coalition. Sherry Buck was our very first Coalition chairperson followed by Lori Wall, Christa Rizzi, Gil Cropper, Robert Matsch and Barbara Plante.

AJDPC has been a big supporter of our local DARE Program, partnered with Mountain Health and Wellness and has a strong partnership with Apache Junction Unified School District. About two-three years back after recognizing the high number of grandparents raising grandchildren in Apache Junction, we started a sister group that was a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren. Also, Sherry Buck introduced a wonderful program called PAL, a support group for parents of addicted loved ones, which is now making a second attempt in Apache Junction. Meetings are being held at 7 p.m. Thursdays at Mountain View Lutheran Church.

AJDPC historically held the celebrity dunk tank “Give Drugs The Big Dunk” fundraiser every year at the city’s annual fourth of July event. Local “celebrities” judges, mayor, council members, etc., would come and get dunked. We also participated in all the city events with a booth so we could reach out to parents and residents without message.

What is your website and contact information?: AJDPC PO Box, Apache Junction, AZ 85119; Co-Chairs: Shelly Verley email: srverley@gmail.com; Bob Matsch email: aztireman@gmail.com

What did members accomplish in 2017?: In 2017, the coalition provided karts and goggles to the DARE program that mimic driving while under the influence. These have been a big hit at many events and it is hoped young adults and older children will realize the dangers of doing this. The coalition also provided Not My Kid presentations and trainings for school staff and parents at the junior high and high schools. These programs focused on Suicide Prevention. In previous years, we’ve brought plays to the elementary level that teach younger students about peer pressure and making good choices as well as providing anti bullying training to local students, parents and school staff. The coalition also sent out letters encouraging prescribers of opiods to join the registry so that patients are not as able to obtain pain killers from more than one doctor at a time. In addition, the coalition provided prescription drop box locations to funeral homes and age 55-plus parks so that people know where to safely dispose of unused prescription drugs. A Beacon newsletter for adults raising children providing tips for avoiding drug and alcohol problems was also recently distributed. There was a coalition booth present at the following events: July 4th fireworks.

Did membership increase in 2017? Why or why not?: Since the co-chairs just took over leadership in October, we are not sure whether membership has increased or decreased over previous years. In general, we believe it has remained about the same.

What is your goal for 2018?: In 2018, in addition to continuing to utilize the karts and goggles and have a presence at various events, we are hoping to hold fund raisers so we can provide safe alternatives for kids and parents of AJ. For example, we would like to provide a sleep over event for New Year’s Eve so parents can drop off their children and celebrate without worrying about picking their kids up until the next morning. We would also like to hold other evening events that appeal to teens while providing a safe place for them to have fun. We also have a limited number of combination locks for alcohol bottles and prescription bottles to distribute to the community. The Beacon Newsletter will continue to be distributed to adults raising children on a quarterly basis.

What needs does the group have for 2018?: Volunteers. It will take community involvement to raise funds and move our events from ideas to reality.

Editor’s note: Shelly Verley is a co-chair of the Apache Junction Drug Prevention Coalition.

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