Combating Alcohol Abuse in Northwestern New Mexico

Gallup's Fighting Back and Healthy Nations Programs

In this chapter of the Anthology, Paul Brodeur, an award-winning author and former staff writer for the New Yorker, focuses on one city trying to address what seemed like an intractable problem. In the 1970s and 1980s, Gallup, N.M., in the rural northwestern corner of the state, had a frighteningly high rate of alcohol abuse, mostly because of heavy drinking among Native Americans coming to town from the surrounding reservations.

With leadership from a small number of citizens, and building on an eye-opening tragedy, the town slowly but surely became engaged in reducing the high rate of drinking. In the early stage of Gallup's efforts to attack its alcohol problem, the Foundation announced a new program, Fighting Back ®. The program funded local coalitions to develop strategies to reduce substance abuse and to implement community-wide campaigns to address the problem.

Local leaders put together a proposal that eventually was funded as one of the 14 sites of the Fighting Back initiative, even though the Gallup approach was quite distinct from that used in the other 13 sites. When funding from Fighting Back ended, Gallup's efforts were picked up by the Foundation's Healthy Nations ® program, one of two national programs that have supported locally developed strategies to address alcohol abuse problems among Native Americans.