When she worked for the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department in Washington state, Carly Castaneda was the youth coordinator for Wellspring Community Network, a grassroots community wellness group that received one of the nationally coveted grants from the Drug-Free Communities Support Program.
Castaneda said she witnessed firsthand the effects the grant had in helping better organize local efforts to help youths, leading to lower rates of teen drinking and more mental health counselors in schools.
Castaneda was recently hired as the coordinator for the same Drug-Free Communities grant received by North Coast Prevention Works, through which she will help better organize efforts in Astoria and Warrenton to prevent teen drug and alcohol abuse.
The five-year grant, worth $125,000 annually with a possible five-year extension, pays for Castaneda’s salary and to fund various partnerships, wellness campaigns, training and education. Castaneda is an employee of nonprofit Warrenton-Hammond Healthy Kids Inc., the fiscal agent for the grant.
She said much of the work will be to increase partnerships between existing organizations and strengthening awareness of North Coast Prevention Works. The coalition formed in 2009 and includes the Reduce Underage Drinking Task Force, Tobacco Free Coalition, Northwest Parenting, and the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force. The group has sponsored various substance abuse prevention events since the 2000s.
Quality of life
Castaneda said the grant will focus on underage drinking and marijuana use, two of the most prevalent issues locally and nationally. Cutting down on bad behaviors isn’t about just telling people to stop, she said, but about addressing the background issues such as a youth’s connection to school, parental supports, poverty and community enforcement of laws.
“If we improve quality of life, we’re going to reduce substance abuse,” she said. “We’re also going to reduce mental health issues,” teen delinquency and other issues.
More specifically, she said, the grant will support Prevention Works’ existing efforts such as an underage drinking task force, along with a new youth coalition to provide teens stronger representation.
Castaneda said her role is more of a facilitator for the county’s various services and grassroots groups. “My vision for this job is to have a community feeling confident about advocating for themselves,” she said.
‘Make an impact’
A southern Oregon native and graduate of Oregon State University with a bachelor’s in English, Castaneda moved to the North Coast about six years ago when her husband became a physical therapist at Columbia Memorial Hospital. She started her prevention work with the county’s juvenile department, facilitating women’s groups around healthy relationships. She volunteered with the county’s victims assistance program, and later worked in the District Attorney’s Office.
Until recently, she was the youth coordinator for Wellspring, which she said is now in the eighth year of its Drug-Free Communities grant.
“It’s exciting to see how communities can rally around an issue and make an impact,” she said.
The grant helped Pacific County significantly reduce underage drinking, while expanding mental health and other services in schools.
Castaneda said the position in Astoria felt like coming come, and that she hopes to recreate some of the successes of Pacific County on the southern side of the Columbia River. For those wanting to get more involved, she said, North Coast Prevention Works meets 3:30 to 5 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at Warrenton City Hall.
— Edward Stratton