By Lora Church, Senior Program Manager, ACL Teen Centers

Youth, families and policy makers convened in To'Hajiilee for an Underage Drinking Town Hall to address youth substance abuse on the reservation.

The Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna Teen Centers' Substance Abuse Prevention Services sponsored the event in collaboration with local tribal law enforcement officials and behavioral health providers. The town hall began with a review of current data and ended with a community call to action. Speakers stressed the importance of collaboration.

The ACL Teen Centers, affiliated with UNM Prevention and Population Sciences, provide medical and mental health services to students from school-based health clinics at To'Hajiilee Community School, Laguna/Acoma Middle/Senior High School and Laguna Middle School. Substance abuse prevention services are provided to students attending the five area elementary and middle schools.

Town hall participants developed a strategic plan that includes potential change agents, such as law enforcement, courts, schools, service providers, tribal leaders, local stores, families and youth.

One local tribal leader for the Navajo Nation spoke about his concern regarding the elimination of funding by the New Mexico Department of Health – Office of Substance Abuse Prevention and OptumHealth New Mexico for substance abuse prevention programs for youth in To'Hajiilee, Laguna and Acoma.

"Programs of this nature are much needed in communities like To'Hajiilee due to the big influence from the local city of Albuquerque of gangs, drug abuse and alcohol abuse," said Lawrence Platero, Navajo Nation Council Delegate for the To'Hajiilee community.