My Turn: Reid Thornburg – Work just starting for drug use prevention group

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 29, 2019

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, which occurs each January, is a health observance week that aims to dispel the myths about adolescent drug and alcohol use.

Sunday marked the end of the observance but, for Rowan County, I hope it signals the renewal of efforts to change the way we think about and address substance misuse among our young people.

On a daily basis, we are bombarded with news stories about substance misuse in Rowan County, in our state and in our nation.

In December 2018, the Rowan County Community Health and Human Services Needs Assessment identified substance use as the most critical area on which the county should focus and act. This is not a new problem. It may surprise some to learn that the 1999 Rowan County Health and Social Needs Assessment, conducted by the United Way, identified substance abuse prevention and positive activities for youth as a top priority need.

Drugs of choice change as do the faces of those impacted. Substance misuse will continue to shatter individuals, families and entire communities if ignored, untreated and left for someone else to fix.

I serve as chairman of YSUP (Youth Substance Use Prevention) Rowan, a community anti-drug coalition funded by the White House Office of Drug Control Policy’s Drug-Free Communities Support Program. You may not be aware of the coalition because we spent our first year assessing the community’s resources and needs, gathering data, determining local conditions and root causes of youth substance misuse as well as developing strategies and action plans to effect community-level changes. It wasn’t work about which many people get excited. It is, however, absolutely necessary if we are to prevent young people from misusing drugs and alcohol.

YSUP Rowan uses a collaborative approach to the work of substance misuse prevention. Its members come from virtually every constituency affected or impacted by substance misuse. It includes young people and parents, as well as representatives from law enforcement, youth serving organizations, schools, health care and treatment providers, the faith community, civic and volunteer organizations, government, health care, business and the media. Each of these individuals brings experience, expertise and passion to the coalition. But we can’t do this work alone. We need you.

We need people who are in recovery. We need people whose friends or family members have dealt with addiction. We need people whose businesses are being affected because they can’t find employees who can pass drug tests. We need young people who want to make sure theirs is a healthy, substance-free community.

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is over for 2019, but YSUP Rowan is just getting started. You will be seeing more of us in the coming year at community events, town hall meetings and in traditional and social media. We will be working to change the trajectory of adolescent substance misuse in Rowan County. I invite you to join us. Local needs require local solutions and local solutions require local people. Be Informed and be involved, starting now. Contact Liz Tennent, project director, at or call 704-633-5636, ext. 106.

Reid Thornburg is senior community executive for Cardinal Innovations Healthcare in the Piedmont and chairman of YSUP Rowan Community Anti-Drug Coalition.