May 2003

Grant Results

National Program

Fighting Back(R)

SUMMARY

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fighting Back® project in West Charlotte, N.C., sought to combat the problem of substance abuse by developing a single, comprehensive system of treatment and prevention that would reduce the demand for alcohol and illegal drugs in the community.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fighting Back worked to:

  • Increase public awareness about the substance abuse problem.
  • Train people and organizations to refer substance abusers to appropriate treatment services.
  • Increase the number of treatment and recovery options.
  • Develop job-training and workplace substance abuse policies.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program Fighting Back: Community Initiatives to Reduce Demand for Illegal Drugs and Alcohol.

Key Results
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fighting Back:

  • Enlisted the support of 53 out of 80 (66 percent) neighborhoods in West Charlotte to support existing alcohol and drug programs and services and stimulate new initiatives.
  • Expanded the Ministry of Recovery, a faith-based substance abuse prevention and treatment project.
  • Established Fighting Back Resource Centers in five neighborhoods to provide information, referrals and access to community services.
  • Established the Teen Care Project, Charlotte's first school-based substance abuse treatment program.

Key Evaluation Findings
According to a national evaluation by investigators at Brandeis University, which compared Charlotte to similar sites where Fighting Back was not implemented:

  • Charlotte differed significantly across time from the comparison sites on only one of 25 substance abuse outcome measures — the proportion of residents who reported receiving alcohol or drug treatment during the previous year.
  • The project took a substantial amount of time to find its focus, which was reflected in neighborhood organizing and the development of the Neighborhood Resource Centers.
  • Additionally, the program included strong efforts to mobilize the faith community and improve treatment and relapse programs.

Funding
RWJF provided four grants totaling $3,258,089 from March 1990 to June 1999.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROBLEM

West Charlotte is a predominantly African-American residential community. Economic conditions range from poverty and homelessness to affluence, but most residents are working class. Religious, political, educational and cultural organizations support strong neighborhood ties.

In 1989, 72.7 percent of residents were African-American and 26.7 percent were white. Average family income was $12,700; and 62 percent of families were composed of unmarried women with children. In 1988, the community began to make substance abuse one of its highest priorities.

The following statistics demonstrate the nature and extent of the problem:

  • Drug arrests in Charlotte increased 149 percent — and juvenile arrests increased 1004 percent — from 1983 to 1987, the third largest increase among the nation's 50 largest cities, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports.
  • Arrests for substance abuse-related offenses on public housing property or of people living in public housing increased 182.4 percent for the first six months of 1989, according to the Charlotte Housing Authority.

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THE PROJECT

The Fighting Back® program in Charlotte began in 1990 under the auspices of the Mecklenburg Area Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services Authority, which functions as a department of Mecklenburg County's Human Services System. The overall objective of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fighting Back was to develop a single, comprehensive system of treatment and prevention that would enable the community to significantly increase its capacity to reduce the demand for alcohol and illegal drugs in West Charlotte.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fighting Back's strategy focused on helping neighborhoods with the greatest substance abuse issues to expand their problem solving abilities and rebuild a sense of community. Fighting Back staff convened stakeholders, organized neighborhood groups and coordinated available resources in five main areas to:

  • Develop and implement an effective multi-media public awareness campaign to generate understanding of the substance abuse problem and community support for Fighting Back.
  • Empower residents to make changes in their communities through educational opportunities and provide them with basic information about how drugs and alcohol affect the entire family.
  • Train people and organizations to identify and refer family members, neighbors, congregation members and others to appropriate treatment/prevention providers for problems related to substance abuse.
  • Increase the number of treatment and recovery options.
  • Develop job training, workplace substance abuse policies and employee services programs.

Initially, Fighting Back staff focused on a range of substance abuse prevention activities. Implementation of the project, however, was slow and unfocused. Several projects were started and then abandoned, including a pilot Community Assistance Program designed to bring legal, treatment and other community services to public housing residents.

Other activities that were to be cornerstones of the project, including the development of job training and workplace substance abuse policies, were not addressed. A new project director was hired in late 1993, and from that time on the project began to make substantial efforts that were maintained over time. The project focused on neighborhood organizing, and achieved the support of Mecklenburg County officials and the community.

The Fighting Back project collaborated with local government, neighborhoods, community organizations, substance abuse prevention specialists and treatment providers and institutions. Major partners included: Mecklenburg County; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; Charlotte Housing Authority; Charlotte Council on Alcoholism and Chemical Dependency; the Drug Education Center (now called Substance Abuse Prevention Services); Johnson C. Smith University; and Stop the Killing Crusade.

Through 1999, the project raised $50,000 in additional funds from local businesses. Mecklenburg County and participating organizations made in-kind donations of staff time and meeting facilities.

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RESULTS

Over the course of these four grants, the Fighting Back project:

  • Enlisted the participation of 53 out of 80 (66 percent) neighborhoods in West Charlotte. The neighborhood groups worked to support existing alcohol and drug programs and services and stimulate new initiatives for area residents.
  • Expanded the Ministry of Recovery to provide aftercare services to people in recovery and substance abuse training to local pastors and church congregations. This comprehensive after-care program integrates the philosophy of the 12-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous with the spiritual foundation and doctrines of the church. The Ministry of Recovery provided training, technical assistance and other support to 84 ministers representing at least 58 churches and 260 congregation members representing 44 churches; and held 462 workshops and group counseling sessions. By 1999, it had worked with nearly 3,700 people recovering from substance abuse.
  • Established five Fighting Back Resource Centers to empower, educate and train residents to change their communities. These centers provided substance abuse information, referral and access to community-based services such as counseling, employment, employment training, health services, legal services and support groups. More than 4100 youth, parents, prevention specialists and others attended workshops and training sessions on the impact of alcohol and drug use/abuse and how to combat the problems they caused.
  • Established the Teen Care Project, Charlotte's first school-based substance abuse treatment program. This program provided screening, assessments and counseling to 474 students and prevention/education services to 659 students. It was established in collaboration with Mecklenburg County's Health, Mental Health and Community Services Department, McLeod Addictive Disease Center, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
  • Established the Peaceful Lions Student Program (in collaboration with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) to train students in mediation and conflict resolution and cultural diversity. These students then trained other neighborhood youth in conflict resolution and cultural diversity.
  • Partnered with the Stop the Killing Crusade, a faith-based direct action organization, to fight drug-related crimes. For example, Stop the Killing Crusade created Citizen Patrols that recorded license plate numbers of suspected drug buyers and dealers and sent them to the owners' homes and to the police. This helped drive drug dealers and buyers out of local neighborhoods.
  • Helped close crack houses and worked to restrict access to a pedestrian bridge that attracted criminal activity. Project staff helped identify 18 suspected crack houses, which were then closed (in collaboration with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, residents and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Code Department). In addition, project participants worked to restrict access to a pedestrian bridge that attracted drug dealers and other criminal activity (in collaboration with residents, the administration of an area school, city and county governments, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the North Carolina Department of Transportation).
  • Funded 15 community-based programs and strategies to help neighborhood leaders and residents develop and implement strategies to combat substance abuse. These programs and strategies focused on substance abuse awareness, improved school attendance and performance and improved self-esteem. Among the programs was Brothers Helping Brothers, an outreach and referral service for youth and their families.
  • Established the Fighting Back Youth Advisory Council to provide a forum for youth to host workshops, training and recreational activities within their neighborhoods. The advisory council was composed of two representatives of each Fighting Back neighborhood. The council figured out the focus of activities for young people; helped establish the Teen Care Project; collaborated with the Children's Law Center to assign an attorney to one of the Neighborhood Resource Centers to work with youth involved with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; and sponsored a number of youth substance abuse and crime prevention conferences.
  • Helped establish a drug treatment program as an alternative to incarceration. Fighting Back staff worked in collaboration with the Mecklenburg Community Corrections Drug Treatment Court, an alternative sentencing program for offenders with drug charges. Fighting Back provided a case management system that provided structure and support to inmates who were involved in the Mecklenburg County Drug Treatment Court Program. During fiscal years 1997–1998, the program served 149 offenders (72 completed treatment, 50 percent found jobs or returned to school). None of the 149 offenders was incarcerated, saving the county more than $3.4 million.
  • Implemented a public awareness campaign to raise awareness of Fighting Back's mission and activities. This campaign included television and radio public service announcements with the theme "Let's Undo Drugs," billboards, bus boards and taxicab placards announcing "Charlotte is Fighting Back;" "Five Ways to Fight Back" pamphlets that were sent out in monthly utility bills to approximately 140,000 households; and brochures that were disseminated to nearly 50,000 people in the community. Additionally, project staff established a partnership with the Charlotte Post, an African-American newspaper, to help publicize its mission and events.
  • Collected and analyzed data on drug and alcohol use and published a report on key indicators of substance abuse activity in the community. The report presented an analysis of the substance abuse problem in West Charlotte, including the availability, cost and use of illegal drugs and alcohol; available treatment programs; and social consequences of substance abuse.
  • Thirteen Neighborhood Youth Councils organized throughout Fighting Back's Target Area Neighborhoods represented more than 200 youth.

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LESSONS LEARNED

  1. Clearly establish and ensure that everyone understands roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, and develop the appropriate infrastructure at the beginning of a project. This project got off to a very slow start because the internal team was not in place prior to implementation. The program was new to the Mecklenburg County system and had little internal support in developing strategic relationships to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure was in place. The termination of the original project director contributed to these problems. (Project Director)

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THE EVALUATION

According to a national evaluation by investigators at Brandeis University, which compared Charlotte to similar sites where Fighting Back was not implemented:

  • Charlotte differed significantly across time on only one of 25 substance abuse outcome measures — the proportion of residents who reported receiving alcohol or drug treatment during the previous year. The percentage of respondents who received alcohol or other drug treatment in the previous year in Charlotte increased from 1 percent in 1995 to 2.5 percent in 1999, while in comparison sites, the percentage decreased from 0.6 percent to 0.3 percent over the same period. This increase occurred despite the fact that the rates of individuals who are alcohol- or drug-dependent remained unchanged across time.
  • The project took a substantial amount of time to find its focus. Eventually that focus included neighborhood organizing and the development of the Neighborhood Resource Centers. Additionally, project staff made strong efforts to mobilize the faith community and improve treatment and relapse programs.

Communications

Fighting Back published a report on key indicators of substance abuse activity, brochures and newsletters, and produced public service announcements and a video. Four local television stations broadcast the public service announcements. The Charlotte Post, an African-American newspaper and three radio stations — WBAV-FM, WPEG-FM and WGIZ-AM — publicized project activities. The Charlotte Observer and The Mecklenburg Neighbors also published articles about the project.

All told, the local media published more than 79 articles about the project, including a series in The Charlotte Observer on "Taking Back Our Neighborhoods." Members of the Youth Council participated in a panel discussion as part of "Kids Killing Kids," broadcast on CBS/WTVI/Fox 18.

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AFTER THE GRANT

The Fighting Back Project sustained its efforts beyond RWJF funding, successfully transitioning from grant funding to community funding. It continues to operate as part of the Mecklenburg County Health Department. Since 1999, there has been a 75 percent increase in the number of 12-Step Recovery Programs meeting weekly in the Target Areas.

The program has expanded into areas beyond substance abuse such as narrowing the gap in racial and ethnic health disparities and fostering a continuum of care for patients with HIV/AIDS and their families. Fighting Back's work to narrow the gap in racial and ethnic health disparities is part of a national initiative by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called REACH 2010.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

The Fighting Back(R) Program: Charlotte, N.C.

Grantee

Mecklenburg County Area Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services Authority (Charlotte,  NC)

  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fighting Back(R)
    Amount: $ 197,836
    Dates: March 1990 to December 1992
    ID#:  016525

  • Amount: $ 906,211
    Dates: March 1993 to June 1995
    ID#:  021714

  • Amount: $ 1,144,767
    Dates: October 1994 to June 1997
    ID#:  024541

  • Amount: $ 1,009,275
    Dates: October 1996 to June 1999
    ID#:  028482

Contact

Peter E. Safir
Hattie Anthony
(704) 336-4634
Anthoha@comecklenburg.nc.us

Web Site

http://www.fightingback.org

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Articles

Newman S. "Churches Deepen Commitment to Addicts." U.S. Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, August 1991.

Reports

What Can My Congregation Do About Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse? (a training manual for clergy). Charlotte, NC: Ministry of Recovery, 1996.

Fighting Back Community Indicators Update, March 1999. Charlotte, NC: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Drug and Alcohol Fighting Back Project, 1999.

Audio-Visual Materials

The Fighting Back Story, a 10-minute video. Charlotte, NC: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Drug and Alcohol Fighting Back Project, 1998.

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Report prepared by: William Digges LaTouche
Report prepared by: Antonia Sunderland
Reviewed by: Marian Bass
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Floyd Morris

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