May 2003

Grant Results

National Program

Fighting Back(R)

SUMMARY

In 1989, the Boys and Girls Club of Newark initiated a project designed to reduce demand for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in selected neighborhoods in the city of Newark.

Newark was at that time one of the poorest cities in the nation and substance abuse was a major problem.

The project sought to help neighborhoods learn how to become alcohol- and drug-resistant. It focused primarily on substance abuse prevention activities.

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

Key Results
Among the activities completed during the project, the Newark Fighting Back project:

  • Established three Neighborhood Commons, centers that provided substance abuse information, resource outreach and referral; other services; and meeting space for residents.
  • Implemented Break the Mold, an educational program that revised the curriculum and transformed the culture at Central High School to enhance education and promote healthy lifestyles.
  • Established a project to reduce the incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome and drug-abuse related birth defects among babies of pregnant Hispanic substance abusers.
  • Established Operation Homestead, a partnership with the Newark Police Department and the New Jersey State Police to increase foot patrols to reduce drug trafficking and drug-related criminal activity.
  • Conducted a letter writing and petition campaign to encourage New Jersey Transit authority to discontinue its advertising contracts with alcohol- and tobacco-related companies. As a result of the campaign, New Jersey Transit did discontinue its contracts with alcohol and tobacco companies.

Evaluation Findings
According to a national evaluation by Brandeis University, which compared Newark with similar sites where Fighting Back was not implemented:

  • Alcohol and drug treatment rates remained stable in Newark (2.1 percent in 1995 and 1999) in contrast to the comparison sites, where treatment rates increased (from 0.6 percent in 1995 to 1.9 percent in 1999). This was the only one out of 25 outcomes measured where Newark differed from its comparison sites.

Funding
RWJF provided $5,626,615 in seven grants from 1990 to 1999 to support the project.

Newark was one of eight Fighting Back sites that received additional funding to develop a long-term strategic plan and target its efforts on the community's most pressing substance abuse problems. Funding was later withdrawn after Newark failed to meet a number of agreed upon milestones.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
 Back to the Table of Contents


THE PROBLEM

Newark is the largest city in New Jersey, with a population in 1986 of 316,240 people (58.2 percent African American, 23.2 percent white and 18.6 percent Hispanic). Newark was one of the poorest cities in the nation in 1989; approximately one-third of the city's residents were living below the poverty line.

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

  • Newark was one of five areas designated as "high intensity drug trafficking areas" by the director of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy.
  • Newark had one of the highest crime rates per capita in the country, according to the FBI's Uniformed Crime Reports. In 1989, Newark had 14,331 index offenses (murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft) per 100,000 people, compared with a national average of 5,741.
  • There were 10,000 drug addicts and 35,000 alcoholics in Newark who needed primary care, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
  • Arrests for drug possession in Newark increased by almost 40 percent between 1989 and 1990, according to a study by the Rand Corporation. Services to prevent and treat substance abuse were available, but they were not well coordinated, according to Rand.

 Back to the Table of Contents


THE PROJECT

The Fighting Back® Program in Newark began in 1990 under the auspices of the Boys and Girls Club of Newark, a private, nonprofit youth development guidance organization.

The overall objective of the program was to reduce demand for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in selected neighborhoods in the city of Newark. The program sought to help neighborhoods learn how to become alcohol- and drug-resistant and focused primarily on substance abuse prevention activities.

Under the first grant (ID# 016516), the Boys and Girls Club of Newark worked on planning the Fighting Back program. The project established a core theme (to help neighborhoods learn how to become alcohol- and drug-resistant) and began implementation in the Spruce/Martin Luther King neighborhood (including establishing a neighborhood coalition, two tenant associations and a police command center in a neighborhood apartment building). The project got off to a slow start due to organizational problems. As a result, project planners decided to focus on one target neighborhood in the Central Ward instead of neighborhoods in all four wards in Newark.

Organizational problems continued during the second grant (ID# 019731), and the project was reorganized in 1993. The project focused on neighborhoods in the Central Ward and reduced the number of operating committees to five. However, staff changes, disagreements among board members and staff and between board members continued to slow project progress.

The third grant (ID# 024535) provided funds to continue the program while awaiting IRS action on an application for the Newark Fighting Back Partnership to become a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. In 1995, the Newark Fighting Back Partnership was incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and it took over management of the project.

During the fourth and fifth grants (ID#s 028483 and 029274), the partnership shifted its focus to neighborhood development, health and substance abuse, youth development and mobilizing clergy around substance abuse issues. It continued to focus its efforts on neighborhoods in the Central Ward and provided services to other neighborhoods upon request.

Under the sixth grant (ID# 032648), Newark was one of eight sites invited to submit a proposal for the second phase of the Fighting Back national program. Each site was asked to concentrate on the community's most important substance abuse problems, and to prepare a three-year strategic plan to increase the likelihood of reducing local demand for and use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

RWJF approved a seventh three-year grant (ID# 032956) on the conditions that the Newark Fighting Back Partnership would:

  1. Address staff and board weaknesses.
  2. Establish a first year work plan with concrete priorities for juveniles, substance abusing women, people in recovery and neighborhood deterioration.
  3. Implement a system to track substance abuse trends.
  4. Sign an agreement with a major hospital(s) to ensure that emergency room patients who need substance abuse services are identified and referred.

Funding for years two and three was dependent upon meeting these conditions during year one.

RWJF subsequently withdrew funding for years two and three after the Fighting Back National Program Office determined that the Newark Fighting Back Partnership had not adequately accomplished these first-year milestones and that its strategy and implementation was unlikely to impact the overall level of substance abuse in Newark.

Over the course of the project, the Newark Fighting Back Partnership collaborated with neighborhood groups and coalitions, churches, schools and government agencies/departments. Major partners included: the Newark Housing Authority Tenants Association, Israel Memorial Church, St. James Church, Newark School System, Newark Neighborhood Services Department, Newark City Council, Newark Police Department, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Essex County Community College and Essex County Sheriff's Office.

Through 1999, the Newark Fighting Back Partnership attracted more than $4.4 million in additional funding, including $1.5 million from a federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Community Partnership grant; $945,000 from the Amelior Foundation; and $518,900 from First Union Bank. The Newark Fighting Back Partnership was part of the Newark Target Cities Project, an $11 million, five-year initiative to promote drug and alcohol treatment, which was funded by the federal center.

 Back to the Table of Contents


RESULTS

Among the activities the Newark Fighting Back Partnership completed, it:

  • Established three Neighborhood Commons, centers that provided substance abuse information, resource outreach and referral, as well as meeting space for residents. The partnership established two Neighborhood Commons in the Central Ward and one in the North Ward. Services included job training and referrals and after-school homework assistance and activities. Approximately 200 residents used these centers each month.
  • Implemented Break the Mold, a program that worked to enhance education and promote healthy lifestyles at Central High School. The partnership led the effort to revise the curriculum to improve job preparation and transform the culture at Central High School in the Central Ward. Break the Mold included programming to reduce violence and increase student self-esteem, summer and post-graduation jobs for students, apprenticeship programs, college preparation assistance and medical, dental and social services. This program served 1,000 youth every day. Central High School was one of three Break the Mold schools nationwide. The program was developed by the Harvard-affiliated Mind/Body Medical Institute at the Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital.
  • Established a program to reduce birth defects among babies of pregnant Hispanic women who were substance abusers. The program, called CURA (Community United for the Rehabilitation of the Addicted) provided medical services during the perinatal period (the time surrounding the birth of a baby, from the 20th week of pregnancy to 28 days after birth) for pregnant Hispanic women who were substance abusers. This program served 42 women and delivered 14 healthy infants. It was established in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Health.
  • Helped Newark become part of the federally funded Target Cities Project, which established one main source for intake, assessment and substance abuse treatment referrals for Newark residents. The Newark Fighting Back Partnership served as a collaborator and broker in the negotiations for this $11 million demonstration project, bringing together the New Jersey Department of Health's Division of Addiction Services and 12 Newark treatment providers to develop the application for this five-year (1994 to 1998) grant from the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
  • Participated in the Public Intoxication Nuisance and Trash Program, which sought to curb public drinking and clean up vacant lots. Partnership staff and others cleaned 50 sites and educated residents about recycling and the anti-public drinking laws. As a result of this program, the Newark Fighting Back Partnership referred 116 people to substance abuse treatment. This program was conducted in partnership with the Newark sanitation and police departments and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
  • Established Operation Homestead, a partnership with the Newark Police Department and the New Jersey State Police to reduce drug trafficking and drug-related criminal activity. A command center was established in the Spruce/Martin Luther King neighborhood. Teams of city and state police conducted foot and auto patrols to increase police visibility, deter drug sales and arrest suspected drug dealers.
  • Established the Interfaith Clergy Alliance to implement substance abuse prevention activities within a spiritual framework. The alliance's activities included an eight-hour train-the-trainer program on substance abuse awareness, a gospel concert and after-care support, job training and GED preparation for substance abusers.
  • Served as the community liaison and provided technical assistance to the Essex County Drug Court. The Essex County Drug Court is a court-supervised drug treatment program that provides an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent offenders charged with drug-related offenses. Approximately 200 defendants successfully participated in the drug court program.
  • Conducted a letter writing and petition campaign to encourage the New Jersey Transit Authority to discontinue its advertising contracts with alcohol- and tobacco-related companies. As a result of this campaign, New Jersey Transit discontinued its contracts with alcohol and tobacco companies.
  • Created and hosted a weekly cable television program called Taking it to the Streets. This program informed viewers about alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention. Each show reached approximately 200,000 people.

Evaluation Findings

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

  • Alcohol and drug treatment rates remained stable in Newark (2.1 percent in 1995 and 1999) but increased in the comparison sites (from 0.6 percent in 1995 to 1.9 percent in 1999).

This was the only one out of 25 outcomes measured where Newark differed from its comparison sites.

The investigators noted that the Newark Fighting Back Partnership:

  • Had a strong and consistent involvement in community organizing.
  • Forged strong partnerships with the police department, linking residents with community police to promote safety and order.
  • Partnered with the schools in some interesting and potentially exciting ways, such as the Break the Mold project.

Communications

The Newark Fighting Back Partnership created and hosted a weekly cable television program about alcohol, tobacco and drug use prevention; published a quarterly newsletter; produced television and radio public service announcements; and produced several videos. The cable television program reached approximately 200,000 people.

The quarterly newsletter was sent to about 3,000 people. In addition, the Newark Fighting Back Partnership published a community organizing guide, a drug prevention booklet and annual reports. Project staff wrote journal articles that were published in the Renaissance Reporter and New Jersey Reporter. The Star Ledger covered project activities. (See the Bibliography for more details.)

 Back to the Table of Contents


LESSONS LEARNED

  1. Although most community and business leaders agreed about the prevalence of substance abuse and the problems associated with it, there was no consensus about the most effective way to eradicate these problems. Although Newark's substance abuse problem was more severe among adults than among youth, the community perceived youth to be a greater problem due to their higher visibility. As a result, the Newark Fighting Back Partnership was not able to focus efforts on adults as much as it wanted to, and the program's overall impact was lessened. (Project Director)
  2. It is important to involve members of the community at all levels of planning and implementation of a project. Their knowledge and involvement was critical to the implementation of the Newark Fighting Back Partnership's projects. The partnership had to maintain a strong presence in the neighborhoods in order to continuously gather relevant information on the most important substance abuse issues. (Project Director)

 Back to the Table of Contents


AFTER THE GRANT

Newark was one of eight Fighting Back sites that received additional funding to develop a long-term strategic plan and target its efforts on the community's most pressing substance abuse problems. Funding was later withdrawn after Newark failed to meet a number of agreed upon milestones.

The Newark Fighting Back Partnership continues to operate with government and private funding, but on a smaller scale than under the RWJF grants. It focuses primarily on prevention and intervention programs, some of which target youth. Other organizations have taken over some activities started under the Newark Fighting Back Partnership.

 Back to the Table of Contents


GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

The Fighting Back(R) Program: Newark, N.J.

Grantee

Boys and Girls Club of Newark (Newark,  NJ)

  • Newark Fighting Back(R) Partnership
    Amount: $ 199,996
    Dates: March 1990 to February 1992
    ID#:  016516

  • Amount: $ 1,855,062
    Dates: March 1992 to October 1995
    ID#:  019731

  • Amount: $ 571,641
    Dates: August 1995 to January 1996
    ID#:  024535

Contact

Irene James
Thomas H. McCloud
Serita R. Kelsey

Grantee

Newark Fighting Back Partnership (Newark,  NJ)

  • Amount: $ 542,160
    Dates: February 1996 to October 1996
    ID#:  028483

  • Amount: $ 538,908
    Dates: August 1996 to November 1997
    ID#:  029274

  • Amount: $ 119,082
    Dates: August 1997 to October 1997
    ID#:  032648

  • Amount: $ 1,799,766
    Dates: November 1997 to June 1999
    ID#:  032956

Contact

Larry L. Bembry
(201) 451-8888
lbembry2@comcast.net

Web Site

http://www.fightingback.org

 Back to the Table of Contents


BIBLIOGRAPHY

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

Book Chapters

Chavis DM, Speer P, Resnick I and Zippay A. "Building Capacity to Address Alcohol and Drug Abuse: Getting Down to the Problem." In Drugs and Community, RC Davis, AJ Lurigio and D Rosenbaum (eds.). Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas, 1992.

Articles

Mehegan S. "Blind Justice, Blind Policy: The Struggle for a Sensible Strategy on Drugs." New Jersey Reporter, (January/February): 9–13, 1991.

Reports

1995 Report to the Community. Newark, NJ: Boys and Girls Club of Newark, 1995.

1999 Substance Abuse Treatment Resource Inventory. Newark, NJ: Newark Fighting Back Partnership, 1999.

Common Ground. Newark, NJ: Boys and Girls Club of Newark and Newark Fighting Back Partnership. Quarterly issues published in 1994, 1995 and 1996. 3,000 copies mailed per issue.

Faith Community Needs Assessment Findings. Newark, NJ: Newark Fighting Back Partnership, 1998.

Imagine Newark. New York: Child Safety Communication, 1996.

Interfaith Clergy and Community Alliance Spiritual Resource Directory. Newark, NJ: Newark Fighting Back Partnership, 1997.

Newark Fighting Back Annual Report. Newark, NJ: Newark Fighting Back Partnership, 1998.

Preventive Maintenance for Neighborhoods. Newark, NJ: Newark Fighting Back Partnership, 1997.

Sunday School Curriculum Guide. Newark, NJ: Newark Fighting Back Partnership, 1997.

Survey Instruments

"Faith Needs Assessment." Newark Fighting Back Partnership, Interfaith Clergy and Community Alliance, fielded November–December 1997.

Audio-Visual Materials

Community Forum, a 12-minute video. Newark, NJ: Boys and Girls Club of Newark, 1990.

The Drug War, a 29-minute video. Newark, NJ: Boys and Girls Club of Newark, 1991. Aired on Channel 13 (PBS), radio and cable channels.

World Wide Web Sites

www.nfbp.org. Provided information about Newark Fighting Back Partnership. Newark, NJ, Newark Fighting Back Partnership. This site is no longer active.

Sponsored Conferences

"Imagine Newark Kick-off Campaign," Newark Fighting Back Partnership, February 23, 1997, Newark, NJ Attended by 1,000 students and teachers. Five presentations.

"Shop to Stop Drugs Kickoff Campaign," Newark Fighting Back Partnership, May 1, 1997, Newark, NJ. Attended by 500 students, teachers and school officials. Five presentations.

 Back to the Table of Contents


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

Most Requested