Communities that Care initiative, funded by marijuana tax, arrives in Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Communities that Care initiative, funded by marijuana tax, arrives in Routt County

Susan Petersen will introduce Routt County to the Communities That Care initiative at a community coalition retreat Thursday, Oct. 5.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For nearly 29 years, Susan Petersen has lived and worked in the community of Steamboat Springs.

She spent 24 with the Steamboat Springs Parks & Community Services Department and then several years with the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, and now she’s accepted a new role running the Communities That Care Initiative in Routt and Moffat counties. 

Petersen is inviting the public to learn more about the program and its goals at a community coalition retreat from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5 at the Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs. Light breakfast and a full lunch will be provided.

Peterson describe Communities That Care as a framework to encourage communities to collaborate and work together on concerns affecting youth.

“It provides a lot of strategies that have been used to reduce risk behaviors in youth,” Petersen said. "It's really a community-led process to determine what the risks are and where we should focus.

“I kind of shy away from specifically saying it's going to be a substance abuse prevention program,” Petersen explained. “It's really just a framework, and it's an operating system — like your phone or computer. The idea is to gather together people from all sectors of the community— law enforcement, schools, government and anyone serving youth — and build a coalition to have those folks , as a community, work together toward community goals.”

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Funding for the Communities That Care program comes from taxes placed on the sale of marijuana, which are distributed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Northwest Colorado Health secured the grant that will fund the program for the next five years.

Petersen said one of the purposes of the initiative will involving working with various community groups on common goals, identifying gaps that may exist in the community and developing strategies to fill those gaps. The ultimate goal is to offer support and guidance to the groups that are working to create an environment that fosters happier, healthier children by helping them avoid pitfalls like substance abuse, alcohol abuse and other destructive behavioral patterns.

According to Petersen, there is clear data that Communities That Care works. A random controlled trial held across 24 different communities showed that eighth-graders in Communities That Care communities were 33 percent less likely to start smoking cigarettes, 32 percent less likely to start drinking and 24 percent less likely to start engaging in delinquency.

Petersen is one of two Community That Care facilitators working in Northwest Colorado. She has teamed up with Amanda Ott to organize and run programs in Routt and Moffat counties.

"I've spent the past five months or so meeting with stakeholders throughout Routt County and meeting with people in Moffat County as well. But really just trying to not have it be Steamboat centric, but include Hayden and Soroco,” Petersen said. “Here we have three different communities, three different school districts and a large geographic area. We will know more after this retreat next week … If people are interested in this, and they are kind of sitting back thinking we talk a lot about what we can do for our youth, but are we really being intentional about working together?"

For Jacob Perry, community outreach manager for Northwest Colorado Health, the Communities That Care initiative offers a chance to build on what community organizations are already doing.

"It differs from community to community,” Perry said. “I think some communities have existing groups that have been working in their own silos, and this framework allows those groups to focus on a direction. It helps identify overlaps, or gaps that these community organizations may not be addressing.”

Petersen agrees.

"Steamboat is already doing a lot of great things," Petersen said. “This program is designed to elevate and enhance what we are doing and not to duplicate."

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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