Prevention Wins In 2010 Election

November 3, 2010

I was heartened to see the outcome of several ballot measures that could have had a serious negative impact on teen substance abuse.

In Oregon, voters rejected Ballot Measure 74, which would have created a system of unlimited dispensaries for medical marijuana. Proponents said it would help patients get their marijuana. Opponents said it would raise the prices for patients significantly, exempt dispensary operators and their staff from any prosecution, create major money generating operations, all the while it would increase the availability to vulnerable youth.

California voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure that would have made it the first state to legalize the personal use and possession of marijuana.

In Washington state, the voters look to have turned down two initiatives that would privatize liquor sales and overhaul beer- and wine-distribution rules. Had they passed, the number of alcohol outlets in the state would have increased ten-fold.  Again, the issue is ready availability to youth as well as problem drinkers.

A defeat for those measures is a win for our youth and a win for prevention.

– Tom


Rutgers Student’s Suicide a Call to Action

October 1, 2010

The death of 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi has become a clarion call to all of us about the real dangers of bullying. He was outed as being gay on the internet and he killed himself.

This clip from Ellen deGeneres is far more eloquent than anything I could write: View Ellen’s Message

If you are struggling with bullying, questions about sexuality or any other issues, call us on the Oregon Partnership Help Line: (800) 923-HELP. The Youth Line is (877) YOUTH 911. Our suicide hot line numbers are (800) 273-TALK or 800 SUICIDE.

Make sure the people you know have these numbers.

There is help and hope.


A Rare Chance to Stop an Epidemic Before It Gets Out of Hand

September 27, 2010

In the field of drug abuse prevention we’re always playing “catch-up” – tackling seemingly unstoppable juggernauts that have years of momentum. We almost never have a chance to get ahead of an emerging drug of abuse.

We have that opportunity now.

“Synthetic marijuana,” sold under various names, like “K2” and “Spice,” is quickly establishing a foothold among our Nation’s youth. At Oregon Partnership we recently received a call from a mother whose son woke her up in the middle of the night, screaming, convulsing and hallucinating from smoking synthetic marijuana. At the emergency room his heart was racing, his breathing was labored and he was begging his mother “Please don’t let me die!”

Synthetic Marijuana is cheap. It’s undetectable by traditional marijuana (THC) screening methods. And, in most states, it’s legal. In fact, youth refer to it as “legal marijuana” and word is spreading quickly that it defies the usual detection screenings.

It is sold in head shops and hookah stores as incense with a broad wink and a note that it’s “not for human consumption.” But people, seeking a high, are smoking it, and some have been showing up in emergency rooms with agitation, hallucinations, vomiting, high blood pressure and elevated heart rates. One of the chemical compounds sprayed on synthetic marijuana – JWH-018 – binds with the brain’s receptors that bind THC, but at four to five times the impact of THC.

Several countries, including Britain, France and Germany have banned K2 and similar products. Additionally, nine states have also banned these products and several others have legislation in development to ban them.

We need to seize the opportunity to get ahead of this problem by taking similar action across the United States.

– Tom

Teens craft films to address issues in the Portland Community

September 3, 2010

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to work with talented, creative, passionate and open-minded  teens who want to give back to their communities.

Teens met regularly to discuss the issues affecting the Portland community and then created short films to share what they learned with the public. The films premiere this month.

Students Creating Entertainment for Neighborhood Empowerment (SCENE) is as unique as the youth who named the summer program. The SCENE team was made up not only of excellent students, but a wonderful collaboration between several organizations that share their passion to give back to the community through youth and make positive impressions on them. For example, the Portland Police Bureau has developed an solid relationship with the SCENE teens who are now committed to saying a friendly “Hello” to all police officers they see in passing.

The teens not only learned the issues affecting the Portland community through weekly curriculum, but learned how to develop their ideas into short films from an exceptional team of film makers from Portland Community Media. The SCENE teens also learned how to channel their artistic traits with the help of the FreeArts team.

Most people might imagine a group of teens sitting in a summer , heads in their books or looking out the window at the weather. Let me dispel that, these teens were fully engaged and the summer was a blast! The SCENE team interviewed people on the streets, enjoyed great food during social time, learned about drug prevention, developed relationships with community members and made new friends with students from other schools.

SCENE is  one of the best projects I have had the pleasure of being a part of and I look forward to seeing the SCENE team again!

– Angela

Air Empathy

August 16, 2010

I thought I would use my flagship OP entry to repost this poem blogged by a friend who (also) works with grieving children:

Air Empathy

On the red-eye from Seattle, a two year-old
in the seat behind me screeches

his little guts out. Instead of dreaming
of stuffing a wad of duct tape

into his mouth, I envy him, how he lets
his pain hang out. I wish I too could drill

a pipeline into the fields of ache, tap
a howl. How long would I need to sob

before the lady beside me dropped
her fashion rag, dipped a palm

into the puddle of me? How many
squeals before another passenger

joined in? Soon the stewardess hunched
over the drink cart, the pilot gushing

into the controls, the entire plane, an arrow
of grief, quivering through the sky.
~jeffrey mcdaniel

This piece reminds me so much of a conversation I had with a priest on a transatlantic plane once, about how often those most disgruntled by crying children often seem to wish they could throw a tantrum themselves. How cathartic it could feel to shake your fists and scream “I’m uncomfortable and hot and queasy and scared too!! I hate flying!!!”

How often does this happen in our daily lives? How often when someone openly shares their struggle, anger, sadness are we overcome with our own feelings of the same? “You think you’re _____? You have no idea how ____ I am!”. When our own needs aren’t being met, how often do we fear being further burdened by someone else’s emotional baggage? Sometimes resentful or envious that they are taking time and space and energy to make “a cry for help”.

If there is one goal I believe we share on the crisis lines, and in the line of work we do, it is to de-stigmatize that “cry for help”. When we encourage individuals to reach out (to family, to friends, to professionals), our goal is to not only provide resources for our callers but also honor their bravery in seeking what they need.

Calling the YouthLine is sometimes one of the very first ways a young person reaches out into the world of caring for their own mental health. We strive to be a warm, bright doorway into the world of outside support. As we work here to increase our call volume on the line, to share our posters and cards, our number and web address, I think about the joy and excitement my YouthLine volunteers have when a call initially rings. If we could scream “CALL THE YOUTHLINE!” into every high school across the state, we would.


Call for help. We’re here. Sky-rocking with you through this crazy, overwhelming, confusing world. We’re in this boat, on this plane, together.


“Face It, Parents” Campaign Goes to Doctors’ Offices

December 20, 2007

Oregon Partnership and the Oregon Medical Association are teaming up to target parents about the dangers of underage drinking – and they should have a captive audience.

“Face It, Parents” posters have gone out to 4,500 Oregon doctors to be displayed in waiting areas and exam rooms.  Oregon Partnership reports that requests for additional materials containing steps parents can take to prevent their kids from drinking are coming in at a brisk pace.

Cards entitled “Helping Parents Reduce Youth Alcohol Use” include six tips to help keep children safe, healthy and alcohol free.

The “Face It, Parents” campaign is funded by the Oregon Department of Human Services and managed by Oregon Partnership. 

“Doctors and nurses are very influential with parents and children,” says Oregon Partnership’s Pam Erickson. “We need their help in teaching parents about the seriousness of this issue, plus the simple steps a parent can take to reduce their child’s risk of becoming a regular drinker.”

A “Face It, Parents” poster was included in STAT, the newsletter of the Oregon Medical Association.

The steps for parents come under the following headings:

* Remember, that you are the biggest influence in your children’s lives.
*Don’t think “it’s not my child.”
*Establish explicit rules and consequences.
*Youth alcohol use is not a rite of passage.
*Don’t allow youth drinking in your home.
*Be a positive role model.

The materials are free and can be ordered at Oregon Partnership by calling 503-244-5211, or toll-free at 1-800282-7035 or by emailing

“We know a lot more about the serious health issues associated with underage drinking,” says Erickson. “New research using MRIs shows that the brain undergoes enormous development from ages 12-25 and that regular alcohol use can damage this development.”

“Face it, Parents” is a an Oregon Department of Human Services prevention campaign managed by Oregon Partnership and designed to reduce underage drinking by targeting parents.  In the first 16 months of the campaign, Oregon Partnership worked with young people around the state, developing radio and TV public service announcements that received substantial airplay.

Developed with input from parent focus groups in urban and rural Oregon, the campaign features three key messages: Your child could be drinking, all children need rules against drinking, and alcohol damages young minds.

According to the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey, about a third of 8th graders have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days and about half of 11th graders.

For more about “Face It, Parents,” visit

OP YouthLine Attracts Teens Who Get It

July 13, 2007


YouthLine Everyday, by Scott

My name is Scott, and for the past year, I have volunteered as a peer helper on Oregon Partnership’s teen crisis line, the YouthLine. When the possibility of me volunteering at YouthLine was first proposed to me, I had no idea what my eventual experiences here would entail.  Looking back on my time there, I am very grateful the tremendous opportunity was simply handed to me.

About two years ago, my mother became involved in Oregon Partnership and the message they try to spread.  Somehow, she found out about YouthLine, as well as the fact that it is volunteered at by teenagers.  She immediately recognized that this would be a positive place for me to spend time helping people and recommended that I volunteer to take calls on the YouthLine crisis line.  I considered the idea, but really had not had any experience before with an organization quite like OP.  More importantly, I had not had any experience before with an environment quite like the one that YouthLine fosters.  

Fortunately, I gave in to my mother’s encouragement and decided to volunteer at YouthLine.  At that point, I really had no idea what to expect.  My first experience at YouthLine was during a week long training course.  The training covered a good deal of topics (substance abuse, depression, suicide, dating, abuse, and others), which would normally be considered delicate conversations at best.  These awkward topics, however, were all handled amazingly respectfully by this group of teenagers.  None of the volunteers seemed like my average friends.  They would not make immature jokes, make fun of people’s differences, and certainly never retreat back to immature stereotypes and biases.  That was the first thing in my time at YouthLine that struck me as being very powerful.  My time there was probably the closest I had ever come to being surrounded by a group of realistically open-minded and honest people.  Seeing these incredible virtues so clearly in this group of kids made me realize how little I see this kind of behavior in my everyday life.  Nowhere else have I witnessed teenagers to be this mindful and respectful of other people’s beliefs and differences.   

This idea leads me into the second amazing thing I found about YouthLine.  YouthLine’s general goal is to help teenagers be safe and reduce stress by avoiding and dealing with tricky situations.  In order to do this, everyone at YouthLine needs to keep an open mind when dealing with any type of caller.  The cool thing, however, is that the volunteers at YouthLine do this all the time, not just when they are trying to help a caller.  In this way, YouthLine is like almost no other place I have come across.  Everyone here at YouthLine supports its mission as a lifestyle, not just a weekly volunteer shift.  Every time I come into YouthLine, I clearly see this in the actions and attitudes of the people.  It is a very friendly place where you can talk about anything and be completely open. 

The kind of environment that YouthLine fosters is one that I wish I could experience everywhere.  That is why I’m thankful every time I realize that YouthLine volunteers are promoting this kind of attitude everyday in the way they live their lives.