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Crime and Courts

Safe Streets Coalition Hopes To Prevent Drug Use On Wichita's Streets

safe_streets_coalition.jpg
Abigail Beckman
/
KMUW
Members of Wichita's Safe Streets Coalition raise a flag to launch drug and alcohol abuse prevention efforts in the city.

A local non-profit coalition hoping to curtail prescription and illicit drug and alcohol abuse came together Tuesday to spread the word about prevention and renew their efforts.

Wichita's Safe Streets Coalition is made up of community members, city and church leaders, members of law enforcement, and nonprofits. The group's goal is to prevent drug abuse on Wichita's streets by affecting risk and protective factors, applying prevention measures and bringing the community together as a whole. According to the Wichita Police Department, there were more than 200 drug arrests in Wichita involving youth aged 17 and younger in 2015.

City Councilwoman Lavonta Williams is a member of the coalition as well as a member of the National City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic.

"There is an epidemic," Williams said. "It has not reached Wichita to the numbers that the rest of the country is realizing, but our job is to prevent those numbers from coming here to Wichita."

In a report released by the U.S. Surgeon General in November, data showed that more people use prescription opioids than use tobacco. The report also said there are more people with substance abuse disorders than people with cancer. One in five Americans binge drink. And substance abuse disorders cost the U.S. more than $420 billion a year.

According to a study by a group called Trust for America's Health, youth drug abuse rates have more than quadrupled in Kansas over the last 12 years. Additionally, more than 1 in 10 Kansas youth have admitted to using prescription pain relievers not prescribed to them by a doctor.

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Follow Abigail Beckman on Twitter @AbigailKMUW.

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