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Howard Wolfe, Director of the New England Inhalant Abuse Prevention Coalition, tells how the Coalition got started.

Kathleen Herr-Zaya, from the MA Department of Public Health, tells how Massachusetts began its model Inhalant Task Force.


Introduction | Principles | Innovation | History | What is Inhalant Abuse?

Background: History

The roots of this project began in 1993 when Massachusetts experienced a surge in inhalant abuse among its students. Dennis McCarty, PhD, then Chief of the Bureau of Substance Abuse at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, convened the Massachusetts Inhalant Abuse Task Force to address the problem.

The Task Force began by researching the problem. This included conducting focus groups of youths and adults. The most significant discovery was that kids were more aware of inhalant abuse than adults were. The Task Force also scanned the prevention research literature and polled national experts on best practices in inhalant abuse prevention. Especially helpful was the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition directed by Harvey Weiss. In 1994 the Massachusetts Inhalant Abuse Task Force launched a campaign, "A Breath Away," to educate parents and youth serving professionals about inhalant abuse. The campaign included materials development, professional training, media and mail campaigns, and technical assistance. The Task Force continues to address inhalant abuse through a variety of activities.

The successful strategies of Massachusetts in reducing the rates of inhalant abuse among middle and high school youth in the 1990s became the model for this grant.

“We got started working on this project really several years ago. Howard Wolfe and I sat down and talked about what was possible across the New England region, what had been happening in MA, and how we could replicate some of that work across the states, building on the networks that the New England Institute of Addiction Studies has….We got started … by talking to individual states and to the state alcohol and drug agency prevention people to see who was interested in tackling this issue. We really were looking for state agencies that were willing to commit themselves to three years of work and then to adopt with their own resources at the end of that process some new services and some new approaches. Because of the connections that we had with each of the states, we had a sense of who was in a position to capitalize on the opportunity.”

Neill Miner, former Executive Director, New England Institute of Addiction Studies



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