National Guard Counterdrug Program: Collaborating with communities to prevent substance use
This year the National Guard Counterdrug Program is celebrating 30 years of support to more than 300 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement agencies across all U.S. states and territories. The program was established by congressional legislation in 1989, with a mission to leverage unique military capabilities, national resources, and community focus in the nation's response to drugs and associated security threats as the need for a national program grew (https://www.army.mil/article/226032/national_guard_counterdrug_program_celebrates_30_years).
The Prevention Technology Transfer Center Network Coordinating Office spoke with Captain Michael Coy (Florida Army National Guard), who is the North Florida Officer in Charge, about the National Guard Counterdrug Program efforts in his state.
What is your role with the Florida National Guard Counterdrug Program?
The Counterdrug Program as a whole is designed to help local, regional, state and even federal level law enforcement agencies combat drug issues in each state. My specific role in the Civil Operations Program in Florida is focused on prevention. I work with local coalitions and community-based organizations to help build strategies and assess the community’s capacity to implement the strategy, as well as helping to obtain the resources needed to implement those strategies.
What was the impetus of this prevention program with the National Guard?
The National Guard as a whole has unique strategies — they're problem-solvers, they're thinkers, and they're already embedded in the community. So why not utilize their specialty knowledge and their abilities since they're already in the community? Most of the time, most National Guardsmen have other full-time jobs. The thought was to put some of these people on full-time active duty to help in the community where they're working. These Citizen Soldiers became full-time Soldiers for the National Guard, but using their specialized knowledge and training to help make the community better.
What are some of the major initiatives that your program is working on right now?
One of the major things we do is implement the Strategic Prevention Framework within a community by first conducting a community assessment, followed by assessing the capacity for change, then planning based on resources available, implementing the plan, and finally evaluating the process. All of which while maintaining cultural competence and the importance for continued sustainability. Another one of our focuses is prescription drug take-back events, which is one of the priorities of the Office of the National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). We also are in schools doing drug prevention presentations to students, especially during the month of October for Red Ribbon Month.
How are you able to apply your military background to your work with the Counterdrug Program?
It's similar to when we go to war. There is a job to eliminate the threat — but at the same time, your job is also to bring the community back together so that it can be self-sustaining, and you can pull out and go on to your next mission. It's a very similar mindset to what we’re doing here. With the Counterdrug Program, I'm never going to go into a community to implement a strategy that cannot be done without me. Because, for example, I could be activated for a hurricane and be gone for six months, or I could get activated for a deployment for a year. And then I would not be available to the coalitions that I've been working with — if they haven’t become self-sustaining, then I haven’t really helped them.
Have you received any kind of feedback from your community?
Yes, the community loves the program because we come in as Soldiers and we’re able to have a black-and-white mindset with numbers and data. We can strip away the emotion and look at the data and create a strategy based on the information.
To learn more about the National Guard Counterdrug Program, visit https://ctrd.ng.mil/Pages/NGCDP.aspx.