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10 Reasons Not to Adopt Communities That Care (CTC)   5 comments

I gave the speech below, at the Heber City council meeting tonight, asking the council not to adopt Communities that Care, right after three state employees gave speeches encouraging the city to adopt Communities That Care. 

http://youtu.be/YtecukxKAhY  (Click to watch the video of the presentation)

Please write our city council here:

jbradshaw@ci.heber.ut.us

erowland@ci.heber.ut.us

rpatterson@ci.heber.ut.us

phillips1005@msn.com

manderson@ci.heber.ut.us

amcdonald@ci.heber.ut.us

I also shared the actual youth survey itself with them:

http://www.sdrg.org/ctcresource/CTC_Youth_Survey_2006.pdf

 http://store.samhsa.gov/product/Communities-That-Care-Youth-Survey/CTC020 

– and the “availability-of-firearms-as-a-risk-factor-for-behavior-problems” page from the CTC pdf available online here:

 http://www.sdrg.org/ctcresource/Community%20Assessment%20Training/Participant%20Guide/CAT_PG_mod3.pdf

10 Reasons Not to Adopt Communities That Care (CTC)

1. We know so little about the obligations of joining this coalition.  The general public cannot get online access to read the grant itself.  But what is it, really, other than $10,000 of our federal taxes returned to us?

I used to write grants professionally, full time, for a consortium of charter schools in Utah County.  As a grant writer, I learned that federal grants are extremely bureaucratic and agenda-driven.  I learned to apply for private grants from local corporations instead.

Grants are not Christmas presents or free money without strings attached.  Grants come with obligations. What are the CTC obligations?  Has Heber City had a professional grant writer or lawyer assess the application’s obligations fully? I suggest Heber refrain from “getting married” to CTC, this federally operated coalition, before we “date” it thoroughly.

The question is not whether or not some Heber City youth have serious problems that need our help. (We do have great programs in place already that we are underutilizing; I’ll address them llater. ) The question is whether we want/need the federal supervision and lack of flexibility that always comes with federal money and “free training.”

2. University of Kansas has done a study of the pros and cons of CTC.  Citing Univ. Kansas:

- CTC is a copyrighted, structured process.  It was previously private, owned by the Channing-Bete Corporation, but has been sold to the federal government.

- University of Kansas  calls the CTC approach “only inclusive and participatory for certain people,” and notes that
“While it claims to involve the whole community, the formal CTC approach is actually top-down, starting with a small number of “key community leaders.” These leaders who may or may not be representative of the whole community in terms of race, socioeconomic class, or interests – then “invite” other participants “from all sectors” to make up a community board of 30. The reality is that they’ll usually invite people they know, who are apt to be much like them and may not represent the true diversity of the community.”

Especially in a large community, it takes research to know whom to include, and 30 may be too small a number to be truly representative of all sectors. Furthermore, some sectors – youth themselves, for instance, or single parents on welfare – are unlikely to be included unless specifically targeted by the process. And if the “key community leaders” see themselves as leading the process, its participatory nature can go out the window.

-CTC allows the choice of only a finite number of approaches. University of Kansas found that “CTC’s claim of allowing communities the freedom to devise their own solutions is only partially accurate. Communities can create combinations of interventions that speak to their needs, but only from a limited pool of choices. “

…”On the one hand, it presents…the security of set curricula … On the other, it can limit the possibilities for creativity and the use of local wisdom that might arise if there were more freedom of choice and the chance for the community to craft its own program.”

- “Choosing from among best practices may encourage communities merely to follow directions, rather than throwing heart and soul into the effort. Though it simplifies the process, it’s an intervention that’s laid out for the community, rather than built from the ground up…

-CTC is narrowly focused. CTC “implies taking a small-picture view of community health and development, and not necessarily planning for the long term or for the whole community. If the ultimate goals are as narrow as reducing one or more of the problem behaviors, they can give the impression that reaching those goals “fixes” the problem and the community. If the goal is the end of the process, there’s no community commitment to long-term social change. And long-term social change is usually needed to fully solve community problems.”

- “CTC is, to a certain extent, based on assumptions. While the theory behind it and the best practices have been subject to a fair amount of research, the program has only been shown to be effective in the short- to mid-term range. Long-term data have not yet been collected.”

- “CTC is sold as a package that includes literature, training, and support. While there are some obvious advantages to this, it also means that there can be less flexibility in the model than might be desirable… whether they’re the most appropriate or effective possibilities for the community or not.

Moving on from University of Kansas, I have made the following observations about some additional disadvantages of CTC:

3.  CTC is owned by federal government; it makes us beholden to mandates and rules set by bureaucrats far from Heber City, long after the grant money has been spent.

4.   CTC will require ongoing solicitation of federal funding or finding other grantors or raising of taxes to continue.

5.  CTC adds a layer of bureaucracy and government salary.

6.  CTC asks for archival and ongoing data to be collected and shared with the federal government.  There may be serious data privacy concerns for some Heber citizens.

7.  Most concerning of all to me is blind acceptance of the values embedded in the CTC training and youth surveys.  They appear in some instances to indoctrinate with collectivism, and with specific biases that do not match my own, or may not match your own. (See youth survey questions.)

For example, on the risk factors page,  it places drug abuse and alcohol abuse and availability of firearms in the same category, all labeled as risk factors for behavior problems.  In Heber, a lot of teenagers shoot guns but they aren’t in gangs; they’re hunting deer or recreationally shooting targets.  There’s a disconnect there.  I quote two cited risk factors: one,

“Availability of firearms:  Statistics show that the more available firearms are in a community, the higher the violent crime rates tend to be, and, conversely, fewer firearms in a community is correlated with lower violent crime rates.”   [Yikes. Where do they get those nutty statistics? Ask a Swiss citizen!]

two:

Community laws and norms favorable to drug use, firearms, and crime. ” 

–In the same sentence!  Drugs, firearms and crime.  Some are norms in Heber, some aren’t.  That’s not going to give us accurate data.  Nor will it give our kids the message we want to send them about firearms.  Is it?

Another example.  I quote this from CTC itself: “…The ideal here… is one where the community speaks with one voice about values and standards.”  That sounds extremely collective. We should have many voices heard in our community.  Not one.  That’s always been the American way. Because if there’s only one voice, who gets to speak? Who gets to set those standards for our children– the federal government, or the people of Heber?

There’s also an “innocence alert” issue.  What happens when very young children are exposed to these types of questions?  Sometimes, that’s their first introduction to deviant behavior and it could have the opposite effect on some children of creating curiosity.  On the youth survey, there are specific questions about drugs which would require a child to know the difference between prescription drugs and illegal drugs that I don’t even know.

I quote from the drugs cited in the youth survey.  Do you know which of these are which? :  adderall, LSD, peyote, psychedelics, PCP, ecstasy, vicodin, oxycontin, tylox, xanax, valium, ambien, methamphetamine, crank, meth, crystal meth, etc.  And are you going to ask a 10 year old these questions?

One question there was how often the child had “Used prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall without a doctors’s orders during the past 30 days?”

The question did not allow the child to say “I used it but it was actually 31 days ago,” or “What the heck is Adderall?”  We can write better questions that are more appropriately crafted.

8.  Examples of questions from the youth survey:

  • What are      the chances you would be seen as cool if you a) smoked cigarettes b) began      drinking alcoholic beverages regularly c) smoked cigarettes d) carried a      handgun [umm… Shouldn't this at least be an essay question? Should guns      and alcohol both be in the same question? ]
  • –Used      derbisol in your lifetime? [what the heck is derbisol and how do I mark      a multiple choice quiz to say huh?]
  • We argue      about the same things in my family over and over. [what a question. Is      there any family in the world that never has a disagreement?  What is the point of asking whether the      disagreements vary or are about the same things?  We should write our own survey at the      very least, and make it essay based.

9.  There are some very controversial issues surrounding bullying-prevention workshops.  And bullying prevention workshops are sponsored by CTC. See http://www.communitiesthatcarecoalition.org/

To many this seems noncontroversial, but in fact, in many places, anti-bullying legislation has been used to promote gay lifestyle acceptance via the protection of gays from bullying above any others who may be bullied.  This may be an unfair bias, and carefully worded surveys may produce student results that try to legitimize what is actually a political agenda, not an agenda of equal compassion for all groups.

10.  Under-utililizing our current resources – Heber City is overflowing with churches, schools, 12-step groups and other resources that stand ready to deal with youth problems.

Families and extended families

Heber City police

D.A.R.E. program

Church youth programs in many denominations

Long established  12-step groups

The WHS Cool To Care program

Wasatch District schools’ guidance counselors

Scouting and sporting programs

I spoke this week with the facilitator of one of the valley’s 12-step groups.  He told me the groups have very small attendance for people of any age and need to be promoted.  The groups welcome all religions, all ages as long as a parent attends if the addict is under age 18, and have separate groups for men and women.  They have groups several times a week for groups that include sex addiction, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.

Utah’s First Lady has been campaigning for EmpowerParents.Org, a Utah coalition designed to help parents learn how to keep their children from underage drinking.   The organization gives parents resources

Groups that have joined and support EmpowerParents.Org include

Northeastern Counseling Center

Bear River Health Department

Davis Helps

Four Corners Behavioral Health

Tooele Valley Mental Health

Summit Valley Mental Health

Utah Substance Abuse and Anti-Violence

Weber Human Services

Associated Foods

Intermountain Healthcare

Larry H. Miller

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

O.C. Tanner

The Power In You

Utah Dental Association

Utah PTA

Salt Lake Police Dept.

Salt Lake County Sanitation

Utah Attorney General

–and many more

In closing, here are a list of questions we must answer before we move forward with  CTC:

1. What will be our ongoing our obligations to the federal government for accepting the $10,000 and how will we pay for the program when the money runs out?

2. Do we want to use our current resources better, or do we want to add a layer of bureaucracy to implement this program, and then pay for that layer indefinitely, regardless of whether the program “works” or not?

3.  Do the values embedded in the youth survey align with our own; for example, how do gun control, homosexuality, and family privacy issues come up in CTC?

4. What will be Heber’s ongoing “accountability” for the CTC program to the federal government, if it accepts the grant rather than paying for CTC ourselves?

5. Are there better, less expensive, more autonomous or higher quality alternatives Heber can choose to use, to work on youth drug use prevention and other important youth issues?

6.What will be the up-front and ongoing-maintenance costs to Heber City for adopting CTC?

7. How will the privacy of data be assured?

Let’s use our local resources.

Christel Swasey

Heber City Mom

801-380-0422

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