News and Press Releases


July 20, 2011

Spokane – Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council (GSSAC) has received a national award for Outstanding Prevention/Public Education Effort on Tribal Lands at the recent 2011 national High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Conference in Washington, D.C. GSSAC Executive Director, Linda J. Thompson, accepted the award.

White House Drug Control Policy Director, Gil Kerlikowske, made the award to GSSAC, saying, "Close collaboration with our Federal, state, local, and tribal partners is a critical component of our efforts to reduce both the demand and supply of drugs. I congratulate the GSSAC and the Northwest HIDTA for their work to improve public health and safety."

ONDCP's HIDTA program provides Federal resources to designated areas to help reduce drug trafficking and its harmful consequences. Law enforcement organizations within HIDTAs assess drug-trafficking problems and design specific initiatives to decrease the production, manufacture, transportation, distribution, and chronic use of drugs and money laundering. There are currently 28 HIDTAs, which include approximately 16 percent of all counties in the United States and 60 percent of the U.S. population. HIDTA-designated counties are located in 46 states, as well as in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

The Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council (GSSAC), a community-based coalition that has been in operation since 1982, was selected in 2003 as the Northwest HIDTA partner agency within the county and was brought into the Prevention/Public Education Initiative.

Among the first projects undertaken by GSSAC under the auspices of Northwest HIDTA funding was the development and implementation of the WA Meth Watch Community Education Presentation, with the intention of making accurate, useful information regarding a range of meth-related issues available to a broad audience of Washington State citizens. Based on a "train-the-trainers" model, a 1-hour presentation curriculum was developed on PowerPoint, training materials were designed, and a 4-hour course was offered to individuals who were interested in providing the presentation to professionals groups, civic organizations, and the general public within their own communities. To date, a total of 502 WA Meth Watch Community Education Presentation presenters have been trained throughout Washington State, and have provided over 1,000 presentations to over 38,000 persons.

Over the course of the last several years, however, it has become abundantly evident that alarming increases in the availability, use, and consequences associated with the abuse of prescription medications have brought these classes of drugs to the fore. The incidence of overdose deaths for instance has increased exponentially, particularly in Washington State, where the rate of approximately 12 deaths per 100,000 population is 50 percent higher than the national average. That rate is exceeded significantly when considering our Tribal communities. Therefore, GSSAC in collaboration with the Northwest HIDTA has developed and implemented the WA Rx Watch Presentation, replicating the format and approach used for the WA Meth Watch Community Education Presentation. To date, 380 presenters have been trained throughout Washington State, and have provided over 180 presentations to over 5,700 persons.

With regard to the particular focus on Tribal communities, given their disproportionate involvement with prescription drug abuse, eight train-the trainer events have been provided to Tribal representatives to date, including the Spokane, Yakama, Kalispel, Colville, Quinault, and Makah tribes. One-hour presentations have been provided by GSSAC staff for all Tribal communities in eastern Washington, including the Spokane Healing Lodge (a Tribal treatment agency that supports seven tribes in the inland Northwest i.e., Washington, Oregon and Idaho), and for Tribal prevention conferences conducted by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Yakama Tribal Nation, and the Colville Tribe.

During the 2009 National Drug Endangered Children Conference, GSSAC was central to the organization of an inaugural "Tribal Track", providing training and discussions that focused on Tribal communities. Currently, GSSAC is a member if the US DOJ Drug Endangered Children Curriculum Development Working Group, the purpose of which is to develop a nationwide DEC training curriculum for Tribes.

Recently, GSSAC staff assisted the Spokane Tribal Police with the implementation of a prescription medication take-back program for the Tribal community. And most recently, GSSAC conducted a community forum that brought together law enforcement, treatment and prevention leaders including the prevention coordinator for the Spokane Tribe and the Chief of the Kalispel Tribal Police Department.
The following attendees from the Northwest HIDTA attended the National HIDTA conference in Washington DC and are pictured below with the awards for;

Northwest HIDTA: Northwest HIDTA Northern Border Task Force

Northwest HIDTA: Drug Court Initiative

Northwest HIDTA: Prevention/Public Education Initiative
F. Dave Rodriguez, Director
David McEachran, Chair, Prosecutor Whatcom Co.
Leigh Winchell, Vice Chair, SAC ICE
Ken Irwin, Board Member, Sheriff, Yakima Co.
Steve Freng, NW HIDTA
Linda Thompson, Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council
Jason Weber, DEA
Dan Behrends, ICE

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