McKinley Park Candidates Guide

Midwest Asian Health Association staffer Jacquelyn Zhang distributes substance abuse resources at a 2016 health fair.

Youth Substance Abuse Program Building Coalition for McKinley Park

Published January 16, 2018

The Midwest Asian Health Association (MAHA) is spearheading a program to reduce youth alcohol and marijuana use in the McKinley Park neighborhood. Its McKinley Park Underage Drinking and Other Substances Prevention Coalition (McK-UDOS) looks to bring together community organizations with resources to enable education, awareness and advocacy.

"We are trying to connect with schools, agencies, businesses and community members to collaborate with our coalition," said MAHA Substance Abuse Prevention Program Coordinator Vernalynne De La Rosa. "The goal is to reduce underage drinking and marijuana use."

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McKinley Park Neighborhood Candidates Guide

Youth consumption of alcohol and marijuana in McKinley Park is significantly higher than state averages, with 8 percent of McKinley Park eighth graders reporting binge drinking in the past two weeks (compared with the 5.5 percent Illinois average) and 11 percent reporting marijuana use in the past 30 days (versus 7.1 percent on average in Illinois). 

This data comes from the Illinois Youth Survey, and one focus of the MAHA-led program is helping local schools administer the 2018 survey. This will then be used to track the effectiveness of the coalition and its activities, De La Rosa said.

McKinley Park Underage Drinking Other Substances Abuse Prevention Coalition logoSpecific goals include decreasing the percentage of 10th and 12th graders who report drinking alcohol in the past 30 days to 17 percent by 2020, compared to 27 percent as reported in 2016, as well as reducing reported marijuana use to 10 percent in 2020, versus 16 percent as reported in 2016.

In addition to helping schools administer the Illinois Youth Survey, the coalition plans a multi-pronged approach to accomplish its objectives. One key element is raising awareness among parents and organizations about the significant harms caused by youth drug and alcohol abuse, as well as Illinois social host laws, which hold adults accountable for youth consumption. This outreach will occur through education and a social marketing campaign.

Another focus is changing false youth perceptions about their peers' substance use: Nearly 60 percent of McKinley Park high schoolers believe that more than half their classmates regularly consume alcohol or pot. However, the real numbers are 26.5 percent for alcohol use in the past 30 days and 16 percent for marijuana. 

Other activities include mobilizing the community to adocate for policies that prevent sales or use of marijuana at schools and parks, and providing parents with education and tools they can use to mitigate youth consumption in their homes.

Some initial activities begin on January 22, De La Rosa said, when the coalition starts distributing materials at schools and businesses in conjunction with the National Drug and Alcohol Fact Week, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The coalition plans to host quarterly meetings to collaborate on programming and evaluate its progress.

The McKinley Park program grows from a Humbolt Park-based anti-drug coalition that recognized the McKinley Park neighborhood faced similar problems. To fund this, in 2015 the McKinley Park program first received a Drug Free Community Support grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, then a STOP Act grant in 2017.

De La Rosa noted the McKinley Park coalition is a five-year program between 2015 and 2020, with the ability to reapply for another five years of funding.

Current members of the coalition, the first multi-ethnic coalition of its kind in Illinois, include representatives from the 9th District of the Chicago Police Department, the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, the Chinese American Service League, the Chicago Chinese News Internet, the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, Cornerstone International Education, Emperor Restaurant, Envisage Strategy LLC, Guerin Prep High School, Haines Elementary School, Kelly High School, Lake Shore Hospital, Lurie Children's Hospital, Namaste Charter School, Metro South Hospital, the U.S. National Guard, Pickard Elementary School, Preventing Alcohol Abuse in Chicago Teens, Prevention First, Rincon Family Service, St. Pius V Church and Illinois 2nd District State Representative Theresa Mah.

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McKinley Park Neighborhood Candidates Guide