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Community-Based Prevention Programs in the War on Drugs: Findings From the "Fighting Back" Demonstration

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 36 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2006 Pages: 263-294
Leonard Saxe; Charles Kadushin; Elizabeth Tighe; Andrew A. Beveridge; David Livert; Archie Brodsky; David Rindskopf
Date Published
32 pages
This article presents the methodology and findings of an evaluation of a privately funded, community-based drug prevention demonstration program called "Fighting Back," which focused on reducing the demand for illicit drugs.
After 10 years of program implementation in 12 sites, the evaluation found no evidence that the Fighting Back program reduced communitywide rates of substance use. This finding adds to a body of literature that reports disappointing findings on the effectiveness of broad-based community drug prevention programs. Based on these findings, the authors conclude that enthusiasm for community-based substance abuse programs is not supported by research evidence. The evaluation notes, however that there were serious implementation problems, such that no community fully implemented the envisioned communitywide system of care. "Fighting Back" was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to determine whether, by consolidating existing programs, activities, and other resources into a single communitywide comprehensive system of prevention, early identification, treatment, and aftercare services, a community could achieve a substantial reduction in the use of illegal drugs and alcohol. In 1990, the program was implemented in 14 sites, 5 of which were funded through 2002. The evaluation was quasi-experimental, in that each of 12 program sites was matched to 2 to 3 comparison communities in the same State in a multilevel design. The evaluation provided multiyear assessments of substance abuse trends, community attitudes, use and knowledge of prevention, and treatment resources. A total of 44,185 interviews of respondents ages 16-44 in program and comparison communities were completed in 41 communities. Multiple sources of qualitative and quantitative data were collected, including surveys, community indicators, ethnographic and participants observation, and a management information system that tracked program implementation. 9 tables, 1 figure, and 79 references