This Latinx and Hispanic Heritage month is a special one for many Latinx King County community members. Neighborhood House, community partners, parents, and youth celebrate being awarded 5 years of CDCs Drug-Free Communities program to support the newly created Latinx – King County Dream Coalition (La Coalición de los Sueños del Condado del Rey in Spanish).
The Latinx – King County Dream Coalition (La Coalición de los Sueños del Condado del Rey in Spanish) began in March 2021 as a project to address the health disparities experienced by the Latinx community by engaging Spanish speaking youth and parents in a prevention education and action project specifically led by and for the Latinx community. Neighborhood House partnered with Seattle Public Schools, Seattle World School, Healthy Youth Central Area Network, SE Seattle Drug Prevention (PEACE) Coalition, and SG Education Consulting to implement a 10 week pilot program where 40 youth and parents learned together about prevention issues. Together they co-created their own bilingual prevention campaign called Latinos in Action with the tag line “We Are Together – Live Your Dreams!” They created a Facebook Page and disseminated drug prevention messages over social media in English and Spanish. During the summer, the group continued to meet and grow, and invited other Latinx partners, youth, and parents to join across King County. On September 7th 2021 the group officially formed under the new name, The Latinx – King County Dream Coalition or La Coalición de los Sueños del Condado del Rey. The coalition’s mission is to reduce and to change the culture and context regarding acceptability of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use and misuse among Latinx youth (6th -12th grades), parents and communities through culturally appropriate education, tools and services that reduce harm, empower and strengthen Latinx families to promote physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, encourage drug free youth, and bring equity and justice to our communities.
The Latinx* community in Seattle/King County make up 10% of the population. Language barriers, recent immigrant and refugee status, lack of connection to community resources, and economic hardship especially during the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased stress, depression, and trauma for many Latinx youth and families. On almost all health indicators, Latinx youth (especially in the middle school years) are more likely to use alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco products, and are less likely to view the use of these products as risky, compared to their non-Latinx peers.°
“We need more representation in our community. Especially for our people who are undocumented and have no access to services. Our focus in this Latinx Coalition is to find solutions for their everyday needs.” – Jonny Fernandez-Trujillo, Neighborhood House staff member
In recognition of Hispanic and Latinx Heritage and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the Latinx Dream Coalition has responded by bringing community together to learn. On August 30th, coalition member Liliana Caracoza Lopez from Puget Sound Educational Service District and Jonny Fernandez-Trujillo from Neighborhood House presented an online workshop on Mental Health and Suicide in Teens. The workshop, presented in Spanish to a group of providers, parents, and youth, is only one example of the agency’s long-term plans to shift the culture and context regarding substance use and mental health in Latinx families. Raising resilient youth and preventing suicide, takes a community, this funding is one small step towards reducing harm, educating, and empowering Latinx communities.
To join the coalition, please contact Jonny Fernandes-Trujillo, firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Arturo Martinez-Guijosa
* Latinx is used as a more inclusive, gender neutral term that includes anyone with family history from Mexico, Central or South America or the Spanish speaking diaspora.
° 2021 WA State Healthy Youth Survey, Latinx in King County vs. Non-Latinx, grades, 6, 8, 10 and 12.