One in five 10th graders reported using marijuana in the “past 30 days” in Washington State’s 2014 Healthy Youth Survey, and communities all around Washington will be watching to see how marijuana legalization might impact this indicator and related risk factors. Of course, many are not just waiting to see; spurred by a grant from the Washington State Department of Health, CHOICE Regional Health Network is actively working with their partners in the Cascade Pacific Action Alliance’s region in southwest Washington to decrease the proportion of young people who use or try marijuana.
Even with the DOH grant, prevention resources are scarce, so selecting the right ways to use these funds is critical for success. However, this work is relatively new, so little was known about who is already employing evidence-based and other promising practices in the region, where increased effort is needed, and what kind of resources would help prevention service providers the most.
The Athena Group developed two tools to assess the assets (current protective policies and evidence-based practices) and needs (additional evidence-based practices, resources and efforts tailored for priority populations) for preventing youth marijuana use in the region. These two tools were created to allow flexibility in how the assessment would be implemented in each of the counties (group discussion, online survey or both). We analyzed the results and presented findings to the Cascade Pacific Action Alliance workgroup, facilitating a discussion among workgroup members to arrive at recommendations for effective distribution of DOH resources. A final report was delivered to CHOICE along with an evaluation of and recommendations for modifications to the assessment instruments for future use now that a baseline of information on assets and needs in the region has been established.
Approximately 60 organizations participated in the assessment, covering all key players in the region. The assessment clearly answered the overarching research question: How should DOH grant resources be distributed throughout the CPAA region? It identified six evidence-based practices ripe for support throughout the region, along with two resource priorities that can be delivered simultaneously to support these efforts.
The assessment also identified need for greater effort to enhance results among priority populations, with recommendations to incorporate these issues into training delivery (one of top resource needs) and to enhance community health assessments with questions about various populations’ readiness to receive prevention information. The Athena Group left CHOICE with tools and resources to support future work on this issue.