Coalition FAQs


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

Vashon Alliance to Reduce Substance Abuse (VARSA) is coalition and advisory board comprised of community members who have come together for the purpose of creating a healthy and safe environment for our youth by working towards reducing alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD) abuse. The membership represents a minimum of 12 different sectors, or aspects, of our community such as law enforcement, businesses, religious groups, parents, school employees, youth, civic groups and healthcare professionals.
VARSA is a formal arrangement for collaboration among groups or sectors of a community, in which each group retains its identity but all agree to work together toward the common goal of a safe, healthy and drug-free community. One of the coalition’s goals is to create deep connections to the local community and serve as catalysts for reducing local substance abuse rates. As such, community coalitions are not prevention programs or traditional human service organizations that provide direct services. Rather they are directed by local residents and sector representatives who have a genuine voice in determining the best strategies to address local problems.

• DFC = Drug free Communities
• DBHR = Division of Behavioral Health & Recovery
• ESD = Educational Service District
• CPTED = Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
• VYFS = Vashon Youth & Family Services
• LCB = Liquor Control Board
• ONDCP = Office of National Drug Control Policy
• DSHS = Department of Social and Health Services
• ATOD = Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs
• CPWI = Community Prevention & Wellness Initiative
• VISD = Vashon Island School District
• SAMSHA = Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Yes. There are many things volunteers can do to support VARSA’s efforts. Depending on the time you have, it could be as little as helping at a community presentation helping to co-ordinate community event, to serving on a subcommittee.

Simply, the DFC monies are spent on environmental strategies and the CPWI monies are spent on programs and events.

Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative is a State funded grant that is designed to reduce underage drinking primarily in the 8th & 10th grades. How this is accomplished is by funding prevention programs in the school and community as well as providing a full-time Prevention/Intervention Specialist for the middle and high schools.

Indirectly. Some of the strategies may have an impact as part of the Prevention Spectrum on either of these two issues but the primary focus is reducing ATOD use in youth.

Parents: Support groups, forums, educational presentations, workshops, trainings.
Youth: Multiple prevention oriented programs from pre-school to 12th, youth activities, support groups, forums, events, and trainings.

VARSA is committed to providing information and trainings to the community as well as working towards supporting policies, procedures, and local ordinances that create barriers to youth accessing alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD).

VARSA is part of a statewide Coalition of Coalitions that monitors the discussions and proposed regulations from the state and provides feedback and advocacy to ensure the most comprehensive rules are in place that keep drugs out of the hands of our youth. There will always be a need for programs and environmental strategies that focus on mitigating abuse or illegal use of ATOD by youth.

VARSA cannot actively campaign for anything. It is strictly prohibited by our funding sources.

VARSA does not take a political or moral stand against any drug. However, health issues and performance outcomes that ATOD impact will be addressed.

For the past few years, VARSA has worked with the Park District and other “public” areas to clean them up and make them less susceptible to ATOD use and more “community friendly”.

VARSA has been working with the local retailers in offering support to make their stores more secure from alcohol theft and to make sure their employees are following the Liquor Control Board policies.

Environmental strategies, when applied to ATOD use, are actions that work toward changing public laws, policies and practices to create environments that decrease the probability of substance abuse. It also is a strategy to change or modify an environment, such as a park or other community area, by making the areas less conducive to ATOD use when applying 5 basic principles: territoriality, surveillance, access control, increasing activity within the space, and maintenance.

Cleaning up Ober Park, Village Green, KVI and other beaches, and places that youth have been seen using or selling ATOD.

Working with the retailers in training to recognize fake identification as well as recommending product placement.

Initiating and supporting a positive social norms campaign to educate and empower the community.

VYFS is contracts with VARSA, as a community partner, to supply specific programs.

VISD is VARSA's fiscal agent and community partner.

There are 31 DFC coalitions in the state of Washington. VARSA attends two different meetings that involve collaboration with other coalitions:

Washington State Coalition of Coalitions
King County Coalition of Coalitions

VARSA is a coalition of leaders from all sectors of the community. Each sector leader represents an area of focus, not opinions or values other than to recognize that ATOD use has a negative impact on youth, the developing brain, as well as other social issues.

It’s true that most adults THINK that, but it’s a myth. Vashon’s Community Attitudes Survey shows 88% of adults saying they NEVER let youth drink alcohol in the home; 96% say the same of marijuana. Over 80% believe social use by youth is harmful. Nearly ALL of us believe there should be legal consequences for adults who provide youth with alcohol or marijuana.

Teens brains are not yet wired to assess risk accurately and so, yes, some will try to test the safety rules we adults create for them. Whether they succeed in breaking the rules depends on us and our willingness to follow through with sensitivity, concern, and consistency.

The question assumes that there are meth labs on Vashon and that the Sheriff’s Office and/or VARSA aren’t doing anything about it. Due to the massive amounts of quality methamphetamine coming out of Mexico it isn’t cost effective to cook meth on the Island anymore. The deputies working the island have not received any information from citizen or criminal sources that there are any left on Vashon. If there are - and people know about them - they need to call 911 and report it. The assumption the question is based on could be because meth use appears to be rising on the island, so the natural conclusion is that there must be meth labs supplying the need. (Information provided by Sheriff's office)

VARSA’s programs and strategies funded through Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative (CPWI) and Drug Free Community (DFC) are largely driven by data. These data come from a variety of sources including but not limited to the Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) and Community Attitudes Survey (CAS) which are polled annually. Both HYS and CAS are free to VARSA and contain prepared questions unalterable by VARSA.

They are industry standards and are admissible as “evidence” to support our Needs Assessment. The Need Assessment is in essence what demonstrates our need for funding through CPWI and DFC. Without this “evidence”, there is no funding through CPWI or DFC. In other words and in a nutshell, the HYS and CAS surveys are a vehicle to provide significant funding to VARSA regardless of whether we (VARSA or otherwise) agree with the validity of their content, syntax, or rationale. Though perfect they may not be, the HYS and CAS offer a consistent baseline against state averages and demonstrate trends over time.

Yes, somewhat. Feedback could potentially be incorporated into the next year’s surveys at the discretion of the survey providers. However VARSA does not make decisions on the HYS or CAS content.

Yes, there is definitely some of that, and the surveys are designed to minimize the impact. Here are some examples of how invalid data collection and its impact are mitigated:
• Questions have built-in redundancy and the answers are averaged.
• Results are inspected individually by educated staff.
• Any clear cases of erroneous or misleading information are thrown out of the overall results.
• The amount of misleading information ending up in the final results is assumed to be somewhat consistent across the state averages and from year-to-year. This consistency allows for establishing more credible trends. In other words, if the same percentage of false information is present in all survey results, the trends are still valid even if the data themselves do not reflect reality.