Group Fights Back Against Alcohol Abuse in Native American Community in New Mexico

Northwest New Mexico Fighting Back, in Gallup, N.M., worked to reduce the demand for alcohol and other drugs in San Juan, McKinley and Cibola counties, a 15,000 square mile region with a large Native American population.

In 1990, McKinley County had the highest composite index of alcohol-related problems of all 3,106 counties in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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

Key Results

  • Project staff helped organize 10 local Fighting Back Associations over the course of the project.
  • Local Fighting Back Associations:
    • Helped create a new detoxification center in Gallup.
    • Recruited eight community organizers to help groups in San Juan, McKinley and Cibola counties identify issues and advocates, run meetings, establish priorities and activities and develop resources and community coalitions.
    • Created a Gathering of Native Americans, a spiritually-based healing and training program.

Key Findings

An analysis of substance abuse-related social indicators in McKinley County, N.M., commissioned by the project found that:

  • The number of alcohol-related protective custody admissions in Gallup decreased from 1993 to 1996.
  • Law enforcement officials increased their efforts to detect driving while under the influence, making more arrests in 1994 and 1995 than in 1990.
  • Indian Health Service inpatient admissions for alcohol-defined conditions decreased.
  • Alcohol-related arrests for non-driving offenses declined.

Key Conclusions

The report's author concluded that:

  • There is strong, consistent and convincing evidence of a downturn in substance abuse-related problems in McKinley County.
  • It is difficult to know exactly how specific activities supported by RWJF contributed to these declines, and some of the successes have not been sustained over the long run.