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Sharing its story

PRINCETON — The Bureau/Putnam County Community Partners Against Substance Abuse (CPASA) is sharing its guidance and experience with similar coalitions around the state.

CPASA coordinator Dawn Conerton said members of the recently-established Rock Island Community Against Substance Abuse coalition as well as representatives of the Citizens Against Substance Abuse of Woodford County attended CPASA’s September meeting held at the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department in Princeton. The representatives asked to come to the meeting to see how CPASA operates, handles its meetings and works toward its goals. Following the meeting, several CPASA members stayed to share more with the visitors, Conerton said.

CPASA members have also met with a substance abuse coalition in Ottawa, Conerton said.

Established in 2007 under the umbrella of the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department, CPASA has grown to more than 40 active members from a wide-cross section of the two-county communities, including law enforcement, business, faith organizations, health care, youth and parents, Conerton said, adding CPASA is more than eager to share its story and mission with other coalitions.

“We all have the same goal, the same message. We are trying to solve the same problems,” Conerton said. “We can learn from each other. Let’s join together to get this done.”

Initial contact with the neighboring coalitions was made through National Guard Sgt. First Class Steve Starks and Specialist Travis Crossland, who are also members of CPASA. The National Guard works with communities and schools in developing substance abuse programs.

According to assistant CPASA coordinator Doria Martuzzo, one of CPASA’s goals for this fall is to develop a networking guide for all coalitions in the state, to learn what programs are offered, what resources are available, what successes and challenges they have had.

Within the next few years, Conerton said she would like to see a statewide coalition established, which would meet periodically throughout the year. There is much to learn from each other, she said.

Locally, CPASA is always looking for more community involvement throughout the two-county area. Even if people can’t attend the meetings, which are held at 9:30 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the local health department, people are still encouraged to contact any CPASA member with their ideas and suggestions.

“Everyone has a role, everyone has a talent and a passion,” Conerton said. “That’s the success of CPASA; it’s a group effort.”

Looking at the successes of CPASA, Martuzzo said the coalition has hired a professional evaluator to help track trends seen in area young people. Information is gathered through the Illinois Youth Survey, which is conducted every two years with sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students. CPASA now has 16 schools participating in the survey, with two new schools added this past year.

According to the 2010 survey, there is a decrease in the number of young people consuming alcohol and participating in binge drinking. Also, the number of high school students in Bureau and Putnam counties who disapprove of other students drinking alcohol has increased by 7 percent, from 51 percent in 2008 to 58 percent. in 2010.

“This is especially important because this relates to peer pressure,” Martuzzo said. “Peer pressure is a contributing factor to teen substance use.”

Martuzzo said it’s important for communities and coalitions to work together to help young people stay healthy, safe and substance free.

Conerton agreed, saying CPASA and similar coalitions may not be able to reach every young person, but they can reach some.

“We are all affected in some way by substance abuse with our families and our friends,” Conerton said. “We need to help each other, not just here in Bureau and Putnam counties, but around the state, to do our best to protect and save our young people.”

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