Since its inception in 2008, the Way Out West Coalition (WOW Coalition) in Buckeye, Arizona, has focused on reducing underage drinking. Their success has been awarded the designation of Evidence Based Program (EBP) for two consecutive years by the Arizona Department of Health Services. They are building on that success as they expand to a three substance coalition. The expanded campaign will now include marijuana use and prescription drug misuse. “In the past, we had an adult focused message to educate adults that it’s not okay to allow kids to drink,” states program coordinator Ed Eddingfield. “Not only will we be addressing multiple substances but we will be expanding our message to include both youth and adult messaging.”

The decision to expand is directly related to a six-month research and assessment project coalition members completed last winter. All the data identifies marijuana use and prescription drug misuse as areas of concern now and in the future. “With Buckeye’s growth expected to explode in the near future, taking action now puts us at a real advantage,” said Randy Watkins, Assistant Superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary School District. “By having a community-wide prevention strategy and support programs in place, like PBIS (positive behavior intervention support), we have the opportunity for greater success to build a safe and supportive drug-free community.”

The coalition also wanted to create a visible brand that identifies their work in the community. Coalition member Carol Conley, Assistant to the City Council of Buckeye shares, “We wanted the brand to address multiple substances. The coalition members decided the ‘Get in the Way’ tagline was the answer. You can Get in the Way of Underage Drinking, Get in the Way of Marijuana Use, Get in the Way of Teen Prescription Drug Misuse and so on. The tagline works for almost any area the coalition wants to focus a campaign on.”

Coalition project manager and Executive Director Larry Tracey, states, “We are currently working on developing our youth targeted message. The youth subcommittee, comprised of area high school students, is tasked with developing that message.” Youngker High School senior and youth subcommittee member Dylan Duhame says, “We were surprised how recognizable ‘the hand’ has become in just a few months. People remember the hand. So we know our youth message will definitely include the hand.”

The WOW Coalition’s strength comes from more than fifty-five members from all sectors of our community; business, healthcare, law enforcement, educators, parents, community members and community leaders. Want to get involved? The WOW Coalition meets at noon the second Tuesday of every month at the Buckeye Valley Chamber of Commerce.

This project is funded by Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care in partnership with through an agreement with the Arizona Department of Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services.