In 1982, following four teen deaths all related to alcohol and other drugs, a group of concerned parents and school personnel began to address the problem of alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) in our community. Serious concerns were raised when the group learned that chemical abuse is one of the most common causes of injury and death in the fifteen through twenty-one year old population. Our most precious resource, our children, were at risk. At that time, there was no curriculum or trained educators to deal with these issues.

Research and conferences with law enforcement, educators and concerned citizens indicated that the best approach to the problem of AODA among youth is a school based awareness and early intervention and prevention program.

In 1983, a State Department of Public Instruction grant was applied for and awarded that funded the beginning of an Alcohol and Drug Abuse Intervention Program, owned by our community. A FULL TIME AODA Intervention Coordinator (the first in the state) was hired at SPASH and a part time coordinator for Pacelli, who organized the student health assistance programs. Students acting as peer advisors in each school received training together and a core of teachers attended a weeklong workshop dealing with adolescent use and abuse at Community Intervention in St. Paul, MN. The program grew rapidly with referrals coming from teachers, parents, peers, employers and merchants. Support groups were formed for youths living with chemical abusing parents as well as those who choose not to use, recovering alcoholics and students at risk of abuse.

The Citizen’s Committee continued to function and in 1984 incorporated as Portage County Chemical Intervention for Youth, Inc. (PCIFY). Businesses, service groups and concerned citizens contributed dollars to continue training school personnel. Approximately one year later, the Board of Directors applied and was accepted as an United Way Agency which provided the funding and permitted the volunteers to work with youth and schools directly.

PCIFY, Inc. not only laid the foundation for curriculum and support groups in schools, they also led the way in providing chemical free fun activities including MORP, (a post prom party), SWANCE, (a swim/dance party at the pool), and Movie in the Park, (a free summer film for families). They also assisted members of PCIFY board in funding of their student projects including Wisconsin Regional Teen Institute, peer training and other mini grant projects in prevention.

PCIFY was also instrumental in working with the county schools in administering the TAP (Teen Assessment Project) and following that survey, with the SEARCH Institute surveys of student’s attitudes and behaviors based on the 40 Developmental Assets for Youth.

In 2001, PCIFY changed their name to Portage County Alliance for Youth as a part of their strategic planning. They are part of the Wisconsin Alliance for Youth Project and also became the group responsible for education and implementation of the Development Asset Process in Portage County. To that end PCAY has continued to implement and educate schools, community groups, parents and church groups on the benefits of addressing the building of assets in youth.

Currently PCAY remains committed to being a group of unpaid volunteers who address outcomes and strategic approaches to the prevention model. Their volunteers provide untold hours of in kind services to the group and assist in obtaining funding for their projects.

Having recently celebrated 20 years in prevention in Portage County, PCAY is proud of their involvement and looks to continuing in the future. As a representative in the community as a group who values youth and works to building their assets into adulthood, they look to reducing the level of at risk behaviors which bring a high cost to the community in services and funding which is seeing reductions by the state and other funding sources.