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Champions of Change: Reducing Drug Use and Building a Healthier America

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, honors Champions of Change for their commendable work in drug control, which keeps families together, creates a healthy workforce, and reduces the economic strain of criminal justice.

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

Champions of Change isn’t just an initiative to highlight innovative achievements and stellar performers, it’s a chance to recognize that, across the country, the dedication and commitment of a single individual or organization can affect huge positive change. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with a handful of these dedicated individuals and celebrating the progress they are making to reduce the devastating effects of drug use and make American communities healthier and stronger.

Today’s news is often dominated by talk of the economy and jobs. And now, more than ever, it’s important to recognize that drug use harms every sector of this country. From keeping individual families together, creating a healthy and strong workforce, reducing the economic strain on the criminal justice system, and fostering a safe environment in local communities, tackling America’s substance abuse issues is vital for winning the future – and that’s exactly what this group of Champions of Change is doing.

The community organizers who joined us in the Roosevelt room represent the progress we are making and the innovative and compassionate work going on in National, state, and local organizations across the country. During our meeting, we discussed the successes and challenges their organizations are facing, as well as how Office of National Drug Control Policy can help share their ideas throughout the substance abuse field.

This week’s Champions of Change include:

  • Dr. Daniel Alford – Medical Director for the Massachusetts Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment Program (MASBIRT), Boston, MA
  • Ben Bass – Chief Executive Officer, El Paso Alliance, El Paso, TX
  • LaKisha R. Bryant – Executive Director, Girls Incorporated of Albany, GA
  • Lt. Daniel Gannon – Providence Police Department, Providence, RI
  • Linda Leathers – Chief Executive Officer, The Next Door Chattanooga’s Residential Transition Center, Chattanooga, TN
  • Barbara Notestein – Executive Director, Safe & Sound, Milwaukee, WI
  • Cindy Schaider – Executive Director, Casa Grande Alliance, Casa Grande, Arizona
  • Jan Withers – National President, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
  • Diane Williams – President and CEO, Safer Foundation, Chicago, IL
  • Tim Wagner – Director, South Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program

Each of these champions passionately embodies the dedication it takes to prevent and address the disease of addiction. My appreciation goes out to all of our Champions of Change and the countless individuals working at the local level across the country to build healthy families, safe communities, and an even stronger Nation.

R. Gil Kerlikowske is Director of National Drug Control Policy.