The City of Santa Clarita is the recipient of the League of California Cities’ highest honor – the Helen Putnam Award for Excellence – for its “Drug Free Youth in Town (DFYIT) Program,” as announced Wednesday, Sept. 3, at the League’s annual conference in Los Angeles. The “Drug Free Youth in Town (DFYIT) Program” was the winner in the Cities Counties Schools Partnership Intergovernmental Collaboration Award category.
Public safety and keeping Santa Clarita’s youth safe from drugs and alcohol have always been priorities of the Santa Clarita City Council, and the City and the Sheriff’s Department have been proactive in addressing these issues.
However, despite these efforts, teen drug use and abuse was on the rise. The City of Santa Clarita and the Sheriff acknowledged that drugs were not solely a law enforcement concern, but rather a community issue that warranted a concerted effort and collective action. The problem required a three-pronged approach – enforcement, intervention, and prevention/education.
In 2012, the City teamed up with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County Fifth Supervisorial District, and William S. Hart Union High School District to bring a new anti-drug program to Santa Clarita. The Drug Free Youth in Town (DFYIT) Program is a free, school-based, voluntary drug prevention/education program meant to complement law enforcement efforts and local prevention and intervention programs.
What sets DFYIT apart from other programs is that it is up to students to join the club and a requirement of membership includes remaining drug free. DFYIT is active on 13 different junior and high school campuses in Santa Clarita, offering youth opportunities to make friends, enjoy fun activities, and, best of all, have positive peer experiences without the pressure to try drugs.
Most importantly, the DFYIT program has had a significant positive impact on youth in Santa Clarita. Club membership has increased by 47 percent in the second year of implementation, from 826 to 1,216 club members. Statistics from the Sheriff’s Department shows a decrease in heroin use in the community compared to the alarming numbers seen two years ago. Likewise, documented deaths from heroin overdose have decreased drastically, from 16 in 2012 to four in 2013. After almost two years of implementation, 99 percent of DFYIT participants have remained drug-free!
“Nothing is more important in our City than the health and safety of our youth and families. We work hard to ensure that the City of Santa Clarita is one of the safest and best communities to raise a family,” said Mayor Laurene Weste. “When we started to see increases in drug use and abuse among youth, we took action. The DFYIT program is one of the best things we could have done, because it empowers youth to make good choices that will positively impact their entire lives.”
The Helen Putnam awards program holds a long tradition with all California cities as being a coveted and premier award, recognizing outstanding achievements in a variety of categories that deliver the highest quality service in the most effective manner possible.
Helen Putnam was a mother, school teacher, principal, mayor and county supervisor. But most of all, Helen Putnam was a person who viewed meeting one’s potential as the measure of success. Excellence to Helen Putnam was shown by someone who did his or her very best. To the League and to California Cities, Helen Putnam defined excellence.