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Coming Together to Build a Network of Support

David K. Mineta, Deputy Director of Demand Reduction for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, discusses the evolution of the drug control field and his work to provide resources for the AAPI community.

Like several of my colleagues at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, I did not choose this field as much as it chose me.  In many ways I feel a product of my formative years in the early 1980’s when the rate of drug use was at its peak. Although the rate of drug use in America is down roughly 30% since, for those of us who went to high school and college in the early 80’s, the consequences of drug use and underage drinking were often a part of our growing up in the same negative ways youth experience today, like overdoses, automobile accidents, school failure and family strife. Even back then, I could see the need for trained folks in a young person's constellation of school and community life to help with the negotiation of these challenging issues.  Or better yet, a network of folks in the community, professional and lay, who could develop a young person’s resiliency to be better prepared to deal with life’s challenges.  For most of the last 22 years, since graduating with a Master's in Social Work, I have been privileged to work in community-based non-profits meeting these needs, either trying to prevent teen substance use or clinically treat those with a substance abuse disorder.

Over the last two decades, our field has learned so much about how to effectively prevent and treat substance abuse disorders and to support long-term recovery.  Extensive work has been done to connect the research findings about what is now recognized as a chronic brain illness, so markedly affected by the social and environmental determinants of health, to the professional services and peer supports available across the continuum of care.  Clearly more work is still necessary to improve the quality of care by assuring that research informs and improves the prevention, treatment, and recovery support services.  That is why I am so proud and committed to be at the Office of National Drug Control Policy at this critical time.

As Deputy Director overseeing the President's policy to reduce the nation's demand for drugs, I know that the National Drug Control Strategy strikes the right balance between public safety and promotion of public health.  Preventing substance abuse before it even begins is fundamental.  Treating substance abuse disorders just like any other chronic illness in our health care system is transformational.  Supporting the community of Americans in long-term recovery and recognizing them as a resource for others is a critical effort undertaken for the first time in any significant way by this Administration. 

For Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders, these policies and efforts come at an important time.  Appreciating the health differences among the very diverse AAPI communities and concentrating on solutions to close health disparities, the Administration, through the White House Initiative on AAPIs, brings a level of attention and effort that these communities need right now. I have been proud to be part of AAPI community-based efforts to build the constellation of healthy resources around young people and their families so that they may better meet life's challenges and grow up healthy. What the field has been able to accomplish in the last two decades is very encouraging.  However, the work is not done. We must work together as a community to ensure that all our young people have a solid network of support when they need it most.

David K. Mineta serves as the Deputy Director of Demand Reduction for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.