Drug-Free Community Coalitions

Drug-Free Community Coalitions Peggy Kelley Thu, 10/25/2018 - 02:52 PM EDT


Drug-free community coalitions are formal collaborative arrangements among groups or organizations within a community that are formed or expanded to prevent and reduce youth substance use, including prescription drug abuse, within the community. In a community coalition, each member maintains its independent status while agreeing to work collaboratively to achieve a common goal (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America [CADCA], 2012).


To harness and maximize multi-sector resources for the purposes of designing or selecting and implementing activities that are likely to prevent or reduce youth substance use, including prescription drug abuse

Typical Elements

Since 1997, SAMHSA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) have offered Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grants to support community coalitions established to prevent youth substance abuse (ONDCP, 2015). In addition, CADCA offers technical assistance to community coalitions (CADCA, 2012), which typically includes the following:

  • Assistance in determining the coalition type (CADCA, 2010):
    • Activity/Event Coalitions focus on providing information and service referrals to the general public
    • Service/Program Delivery Coalitions focus on developing and providing individual or indicated-level prevention programs and services
    • Community Mobilization Coalitions focus on mobilizing the community to support specific prevention actions (for example, implementing drug-free zones)
    • Comprehensive Community Coalitions focus on implementing universal and/or selective prevention programs and services
      • Note: Coalitions can change their focus over time or choose to focus on multiple facets of prevention simultaneously, as the community situation and resources warrant (CADCA, 2010).
  • Assistance in selecting coalition activities (CADCA, 2012), for example:
    • Assessment: Collecting and assessing data to define the scope of the problem (for example, the rates of prescription drug abuse), currently available resources to address the problem, areas in need of improvement, etc.
    • Capacity: Developing the community’s ability to address the problem
    • Planning: Creating a plan to address the problem, selecting activities and other strategies for implementation
    • Implementation: Implementing the chosen prevention strategies and activities
    • Evaluation: Evaluating the impact of the implemented strategies
      • Note: Community coalitions generally center their activities on one of these five elements, the names of which are taken from SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (CADCA, 2012).
  • Assistance in selecting coalition members who represent 12 key sectors (SAMHSA, 2014): youth; parents; business; media; education; youth-serving organizations; law enforcement; religious organizations; civic or volunteer organizations; healthcare organizations; state, local, or tribal agencies involved in the substance abuse field; and other organizations involved in the substance abuse field
  • Assistance with implementing promising or effective prevention programs, for example:




  • In communities where a coalition received a DFC grant, middle and high school students have shown reductions in their use of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana (ONDCP, 2014, 2015).
  • Prescription drug abuse was added as one of the four DFC core substance abuse outcomes in 2012, and only baseline data have been collected thus far (ONDCP, 2014).


Drug-Free Communities Support Program, Request for Applications No. SP-14-002: 2nd Modified Announcement. 

Capacity Primer: Building Membership, Structure and Leadership. 

Handbook for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions. 

Acknowledged by

Office of National Drug Control Policy. Drug-Free Communities Support Program. 

Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. Drug-Free Communities Program. 


Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. (2010). Capacity primer: Building membership, structure and leadership. Retrieved from https://www.cadca.org/sites/default/files/resource/files/capacityprimer.pdf

Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. (2012). Handbook for community anti-drug coalitions. Retrieved from https://www.cadca.org/sites/default/files/resource/files/coalitionhandbook.pdf

Dublin A.C.T. Coalition. (2011). Who we areOverview. Retrieved from http://dublinact.org/

Good Drugs Gone Bad (GDGB). (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved from http://www.gooddrugsgonebad.com/find_us/

Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2015). Drug-Free Communities Support Program: 2014 National Evaluation Report. Retrieved from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/DFC2014Interim%20ReportExecutiveSummaryFinal.pdf

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). Drug-Free Communities Support Program, Request for Applications No. SP-14-002: 2nd Modified Announcement. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/grants/pdf/sp-14-002-modified2.pdf