The Center for Health and Social Research (CHSR) at Buffalo State College has been collaborating with numerous organizations on the West Side of Buffalo for the past several years on research and prevention projects focused on youth development topics such as violence, mental health, and drug abuse. Some of our most notable accomplishments have been the West Side Youth Development Coalition (WSYDC) and our recently awarded Drug Free Communities (DFC) Grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The West Side Youth Development Coalition (WSYDC) is the outcome of the evolution of the West Side Youth Violence Prevention Coalition (WSYPC), which was started in 2009 in response to high level of gang activity and violence occurring on the West Side of Buffalo, New York. The WSYPC was developed as a collaborative effort between faculty and staff at Buffalo State College and members of the West Side community. During the spring of 2011, the CHSR and the WSYVPC received Department of Justice Project Safe Neighborhoods funding to develop and implement an environmental prevention program to reduce youth violence, drugs, crime, and gangs on the West Side. The coalition utilizes an environmental approach, which is an evidenced-based strategy with three main goals: changing the environment, changing social norms, and increasing enforcement. The initial focus has been on people living in the 14213 zip code area who influence youth, such as parents and others who act in that role (grandparents, neighbors, teachers, clergy, etc.). As of February 2012, the coalition created a new, broader mission that expanded the prevention focus to alcohol and other drugs and took on the new name of the West Side Youth Development Coalition (WSYDC). The WSYDC has two main objectives: to enhance the capacity of the coalition and to reduce the use of “legal” drugs (i.e., alcohol and prescription drugs) by youth.
During the fall of 2012, the CHSR and WSYDC was awarded a Drug Free Communities Support Program Grant to reduce alcohol and drug abuse among those youth (aged 18 and under) living on the West Side of Buffalo. Our project focuses on a prenatal-young adult approach to capture the entire period of youth development and employs an environmental approach. This approach includes a focus on fetal alcohol and drug exposure (the main causes of preventable birth defects), breast feeding (as a method to increase child-parent bonding, ensure appropriate early brain development), support for appropriate parenting, enhanced enforcement activities, the development of new school/local government policies, and youth-focused norms. This project also has a strong evaluation and data utilization component. Today, the WSYDC has over 170 stakeholders drawn from Buffalo State researchers, faculty, and staff, law enforcement, Buffalo Public Schools, the court system, the Erie County Health Department, and community based organizations/sectors, businesses, and faith-based organizations in the neighborhood.
In 2015, the Coalition was awarded a Partnership for Success - New York State Strategic Prevention Framework grant. Funded through the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the grant unites and reinforces efforts on the West Side of Buffalo to address the heroin and opioid epidemic. Though a problem at a much broader scale, issues related to the use and distribution of these substances disproportionately affect the West Side relative to the rest of the Buffalo metropolitan area.