Close to Home
PBS Online
Thirteen / WNET
Moyers on Addiction Stripe
Return to Homepage Section: Policy Open Sitemap

Fighting Back: Community Members Work Together


One of the biggest barriers to reducing substance abuse is the difficulty of getting various well-meaning factions to unite. Typically, lack of agreement among proponents of different approaches (law enforcement vs. prevention, school programs vs. neighborhood improvements, etc.) devours precious time and energy, while alcohol and other drug abuse continues.

Fighting Back rally

The Fighting Back Project, with national offices in Boston, is a program in which communities work to improve these difficulties. Originally implemented in 14 cities, its focus is on broad-based community participation, collaboration, and the development of accessible, coordinated, community-wide systems of prevention, early identification, treatment, aftercare, relapse prevention and neighborhood improvements.


Fighting Back communities assembled citizens' task forces of community leaders, health professionals, clergy, school officials, parents, law enforcement officers, and other concerned citizens. These task forces have led the development of strategies, provided oversight, and supported community mobilization. Virtually all key people in the community set aside their differences and turf issues to work together to reduce the demand for alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.

In 1988 The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropic organization devoted exclusively to health care issues, invited cities to submit proposals to participate in the Fighting Back Project. The 14 sites selected for Phase I were: Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Gallup, New Mexico; Kansas City, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New Haven, Connecticut; Newark, New Jersey; Oakland, Santa Barbara, and Vallejo, California; San Antonio, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Worcester, Massachusetts.

Phase 2 of the Fighting Back Project is just getting started and will include up to eight of the original 14 sites for focused interventions and measurable reductions of specific substance abuse indicators.

Police officer on bicycle

As part of Fighting Back, police in Little Rock have stepped up neighborhood drug patrols.

Fighting Back in Little Rock

The Little Rock Fighting Back Project developed a community-wide strategy which revolved around 15 Neighborhood Alert Centers in high crime areas. Each is staffed by a neighborhood resident, a housing code enforcer, and community police. These teams have trained citizens in neighborhood policing, housing code enforcement, and identification and referral of people for substance abuse treatment.

Little Rock Police Chief Louis Caudell says crime, violence, and drug dealing have all decreased significantly in neighborhoods with Alert Centers. Two Neighborhood Support Centers, located in churches, are open 24 hours a day to provide culturally relevant support groups, aftercare, relapse prevention, and drug-free living quarters for recovering addicts. According to Mayor Jim Dailey, they have "diverted hundreds of people into treatment instead of incarceration, saving both dollars and lives."

In 1993 the voters of Little Rock approved a half cent sales tax to augment prevention and treatment services and implement public safety improvements in Little Rock.

Reflecting on the broad support Little Rock's Fighting Back program enjoys from the community, director Rick Colclasure credits the fact that so many people contributed to the effort. "People will support what they've helped create," he observes.

For further information, call Dr. David Rosenbloom at: (617) 437-1500

-- Donna Boundy

This description is not intended as an endorsement of this particular program.

This article is an excerpt from the Viewer's Guide for MOYERS ON ADDICTION: CLOSE TO HOME, produced by Thirteen/WNET's Educational Publishing Department. The entire guide is available, free of charge, by downloading it to your computer or requesting a copy by mail.

Top of Page

Current Policy | Treatment | Methadone | Needle Exchange | Insurance | Heavy Toll | High Cost | Fighting Back | Take a Step | Interview



PBS Online   |   Thirteen Online