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NCC Joins Other Faith Communities, Drug Czar,
White House to Prevent Teen Drug Use

Click here to read Brenda Girton-Mitchell's statement about teens and drugs

Washington, D.C., July 10, 2003-As a Sunday School teacher for youth, Brenda Girton-Mitchell was often asked questions about drugs and alcohol by her students. Many times, she was not quite certain how she should respond, said Girton-Mitchell - now Associate General Secretary for Public Policy of the National Council of Churches U.S.A.

Brenda Girton-Mitchell, director of the NCC's Washington DC office."I often prayed for the right words to say and looked to Scriptures, especially because I did not know what my students’ parents were saying to them," she said at a news conference today, sponsored by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

New resources called "Pathways to Prevention: Guiding Youth to Wise Decisions," specifically designed to help faith leaders talk candidly to youth about the dangers of substance abuse, were released today to help others facing similar situations to those of Girton-Mitchell.

The multi-faith resources were developed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in partnership with faith communities and the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives to encourage all religious communities to focus on youth drug prevention, said the press statement.

The Rev. Cynthia Abrams, Program Director of Alcohol and Other Addictions from the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society; Barbara Anderson from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Dr. Sayyid Muhammed Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America, and Rabbi Eric Lankin of the United Jewish Communities, among other faith leaders, also participated in the press conference and will join in efforts to make the program guide available to those in the faith community.

"Faith plays an important role when it comes to teen marijuana prevention," said John P. Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "We are urging youth ministers, volunteers and faith leaders to integrate drug prevention messages and activities into their sermons and youth programming and are providing them with key tools and resources to make a difference."

Walters also emphasized the powerful role faith plays in preventing teen substance use. "Many people go to members of the faith community when they are in trouble," said Walters at the press conference, which was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "Looking the other way is deadly. The best thing is to have more of them (teens) not start or be exposed to dangerous and addictive substances than to try to get them off."

"The reality is a lot of people don’t know how to talk about these issues," said Jim Towey, the Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. "According to data from Monitoring the Future, 90 percent of teens in the U.S. are affiliated with a religious denomination and 43 percent of eighth graders attend religious services weekly. Churches, temples and mosques are well positioned to cultivate anti-drug values and teach effective coping tools to deal with negative peer pressure," said Towey.

The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign began this bipartisan effort in 1998 with the objective of educating and enabling young people to reject illicit drugs. Approximately a year of research was conducted prior to public launch of the Media Campaign. A group of behavioral change experts designed a research-based communications strategy to be used as a foundation for the Campaign. This Behavioral Change Expert Panel (BCEP) continues to provide guidance on issues related to the Campaign.

The new multi-dimensional resources include the 100-page "Pathways to Prevention" drug prevention activity guide for youth faith leaders, the www.TheAntiDrug.com/Faith website, and an email newsletter.

The activity guide was tested at Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith institutions in Washington, D.C., Tennessee and Minnesota. It provides guidance on a range of issues from how to incorporate drug prevention into sermons, to how to integrate ready to use teen drug prevention activities into youth ministries and religious education classes. There is also an existing brochure entitled "Four Ways to Include Drug Prevention in Your Religious Programs" that churches, mosques and synagogues can use.

To learn more about what is available, log on to www.TheAntiDrug.com/Faith for faith communities and www.TheAntiDrug.com for parents. In addition free copies of the activity guide and brochure can be ordered through www.TheAntiDrug,com/Faith or by calling the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1-800-788-2800. Reference inventory numbers: PHD903 (activity guide) and PHD904 (brochure). The materials can also be downloaded from the website.

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