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Substance abuse among top three health challenges

Mohave County ranks worse than the Arizona state average for adult smoking, teen smoking, teen methamphetamine use and teen alcohol use. (Daily Miner file photo)

Mohave County ranks worse than the Arizona state average for adult smoking, teen smoking, teen methamphetamine use and teen alcohol use. (Daily Miner file photo)

This is Part 3 of a five-part series assessing health care needs and goals in Mohave County.

KINGMAN – According to data gathered by the Community Health Assessment, Mohave County ranks worse than peer counties for most kinds of substance abuse.

However, Mohave County does rank better than other counties in the percentage of teens who smoke marijuana. Of the population, only 12.7 percent of teenagers reported using marijuana in the last 30 days. The state rate is 13.6 percent. Here in Mohave County, there is also slightly less adult binge drinking than the state average.

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Other than that, Mohave County ranks worse than the Arizona state average for adult smoking, teen smoking, teen methamphetamine use and teen alcohol use. The percentage of adults over 18-years-old who smoke tobacco is 29 percent. About 28 percent of teens have smoked and 11.5 percent reported smoking at least once in the past 30 days. These teens are students who are attending public school in either eighth, 10th or 12th grades.

The percentage of teens in Mohave County who have reported using alcohol in the past month is nearly 26 percent, higher than the Arizona state average of 24 percent.

Participants in the CHA focus groups pointed to the “lack of meaningful activities and jobs for young people” as a major cause for the increased use and abuse of substances. Many participants discussed how teens are bored and do not feel there is much hope for a good future in Mohave County. They also identified the “party culture” as influencing the high rates of substance use.

“Recreational drug and alcohol use is seen as strongly encouraged and made easily accessible in these communities by legal and illegal industries that cater to tourists,” the CHA reads.

It is also believed by focus group participants that the lack of compassionate mental health care has pushed people with mental health issues to self-medicate.

“We often don’t look at the underlying issues, and with substance abuse there is often an underlying mental health issue … that goes ignored,” said a Bullhead City focus group participant.

Similar to the focus groups and the community health survey, key informants identified drug use as one of the most pressing health concerns in the community. They discussed the negative impact current substance abuse has on neighborhoods, families, schools and how these issues put a major strain on the ability of organizations to provide basic services.

Many of the interviewees did note that substance abuse is a problem across all ages, but that prevention and early intervention should target children and youth.

Taking the data, interviews and surveys from the CHA, the Community Health Improvement Plan Advisory Committee identified substance abuse as it’s second priority.

The main goal of the CHIP Advisory Committee is to reduce substance abuse in order to improve the quality of life in the Kingman area. To do this, two objectives have been identified by the committee.

The first objective is to decrease the reported substance abuse among young people by 15 percent. The committee’s first strategy is to decrease the use of expulsion as a disciplinary action in school settings. Research would be necessary for alternative methods to change these kinds of behaviors. Following that, it will take increasing the “Caring Adult” training to teachers, educators and parents on youth substance prevention.

The committee’s second objective is to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths by 15 percent before 2020. The simplest strategy is to decrease access to expired and non-prescription opioids. Though simple, this strategy would require developing take-back programs, campaigns and educational opportunities in regards to proper disposal of medication. This objective would also require increased access to community treatment options.

Currently there are two core groups working on substance abuse and mental health from previous CHIP efforts, and this year the advisory committee decided to coordinate the objectives and strategies that align with the existing ones. These goals and strategies also align with the Arizona State Health Improvement Plan and the Arizona Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative. This will hopefully help identify possible funding sources for substance treatment programs in Kingman.