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Guard-sponsored Substance Abuse Prevention course proves eye-opening

Master Sgt. Curtis Hanock speaks to students enrolled in the National Guard's Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Training Course at Jefferson Barracks. (Photo provided by Missouri National Guard)

Master Sgt. Curtis Hanock speaks to students enrolled in the National Guard's Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Training Course at Jefferson Barracks. (Photo provided by Missouri National Guard)

JEFFERSON BARRACKS, Mo -- Before teachers can teach, someone has to teach them. That is the premise of a 40-hour drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse prevention course offered by the Missouri National Guard Counterdrug Task Force. About 20 representatives of various state and local agencies recently took the Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Training Course at Jefferson Barracks.

"This is a Center for Applied Prevention Technologies course that we provide," said Master Sgt. Curtis Hanock, a TF Drug Demand Reduction coordinator with the Missouri Air National Guard and a course instructor. "This is a baseline course for anyone coming into the prevention field and is a required course to get your certification. Simply put, the course helps prevention specialists do their jobs more effectively, and it's very grueling."

Hanock and Tech. Sgt. Jason Henke are the only Guard members certified to teach this course nationally.

Hanock said, they provided the facility at the 157th, printed the manuals and provided the trainers for the course. The Southwest Center for Applied Prevention Technologies developed the curriculum. 

"We start off with the history of substance abuse and the treatment and prevention of the past," said Hanock. "We have to know where we came from so when these folks are developing a plan they know what worked and what failed miserably. We also talk about human development and the history of the community so that when we implement a plan it's developmentally appropriate for that individual or that community. This is all about community organization members trying to address this problem within their own community."

Part of the course includes the impact of the media and its power to reach a target audience.

"We can use the same tactics the media uses to get the attention of the population and send a more positive message," Hanock said. "We need to learn to be better advertisers of a healthy lifestyle. Beer companies are really good at selling their product. We need to be better at selling ours."

"Fortunately we get a lot of radio and television stations that are willing to work with us and give us free advertising, but we'll never be able to match the marketing budget of the alcohol and tobacco companies," added Karah Waddle, a prevention coordinator with Preferred Family Healthcare and a civilian course instructor.

Another key component of the course, said Waddle, is teaching the ability to develop prevention and treatment strategies unique to specific areas of the state.

"An environmental strategy might be to get tobacco and alcohol advertising down in a St. Louis neighborhood so kids aren't seeing it, or to go after the vendors of tobacco and alcohol in rural Missouri," she said. "We have to do an assessment of the problems in each community. While you might have gang-related issues in St. Louis, in northern Missouri the problem might be prescription drug abuse. "

That kind of strategic targeting is welcomed by Blair White of the Family Counseling Center of Missouri, which serves 10 rural counties in the central part of the state.

"People in my area are reluctant to admit that there is a substance abuse problem among the youth," White said. "Their attitude is, 'Well, we drank when we were young so it's no big deal.' So it's tough to form a coalition to combat the problem."

White described the course as very good and very helpful, and said it would improve her skills to change attitudes.

Laura Bruce, of Tri-County Mental Health Services near Kansas City, who has been on the job for only three months, also praised the course.

"The class is really good," Bruce said. "My challenge is keeping people interested and involved and keeping them motivated. This (course) is helping me with that whole process."

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-888-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.