key terms in our areas of focus

Click on any title listed in the contents below, and it will take you straight to that topic. For more resources, links and articles about each of these topics, please visit our resources page. Resources are listed by topic, audience and location.

healthy relationships and safety

Creating and maintaining healthy relationships is incredibly valuable for youth. Whatcom Prevention Coalition supports efforts to teach youth ways to resolve conflict in an empathetic and resilient fashion. Conflict can take place in the home, the community, or in the workplace.  We support programs for youth that help them develop healthy relationships. Sources of Strength includes peer-produced short videos on building resilience and healthy relationships. Watch them here.

  • diversity and cultural competency are essential components to building healthy relationships at individual, family and community levels. We strive to represent the diversity in our community and promote cultural competence in supporting healthy youth development and prevention efforts for all youth.

  • bullying is acting in ways that scare or harm another person. It is a serious problem for all  involved. Those who are bullied are more likely to feel bad about themselves and be depressed. They may fear or lose interest in going to school. Sometimes they take extreme measures, which can lead to tragic results. They may carry weapons, use violence to get revenge, or try to harm themselves. Those who bully others are more likely to drop out of school, have drug and alcohol problems, and break the law.

  • dating and domestic violence. “Dating” means different things to different people, particularly across generations. defines “dating” as two (or possibly more than two) people in an intimate relationship. The relationship may be sexual, but it doesn’t have to be. It may be serious or casual, straight or gay, committed or open, short-term or long-term. We use the gender-neutral term “partners” to refer to people in an intimate relationship, but you might use a different word (and that’s okay)! No matter how you define dating, it’s important to remember that abuse can occur within all kinds of intimate relationships.Dating violence is more common than many people think. One in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults. Local healthy youth development organizations such as Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center (WDRC), Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS) and Northwest Youth Services (NWYS) provide resources to youth on building healthy relationships.

  • traffic safety is a focus due to both the rise in traffic fatalities in Washington state and recent Healthy Youth Survey results. It is a growing and alarming trend; more people are dying in auto accidents due to impairment. In 2014, there were 229 traffic fatalities (in Washington State).  Ninety-nine of the fatalities were due to cannabis impairment. According to Doug Dahl, Washington State Traffic Safety Commission, more people are being killed in auto accidents due to drug impairment then alcohol impairment.The WPC is concerned about this trend and plans to implement an awareness campaign to educate drivers, young and old, on the danger of driving while under the influence of substances. Efforts are underway to send the message that driving while impaired is NOT okay. This message is of particular importance for our young people. While young drivers, under the age of 25, only make up 13% of drivers they account for 1/3 of traffic fatalities. The leading cause of auto fatalities for youth: impairment, speeding and distraction.

mental health well-being

Promoting healthy development for youth is our primary goal. We do this through prevention work, social norming campaign and supporting a strong community, youth connecting with other youth and caring adults, building resilience and advocating for social justice and equity. We focus on: suicide prevention; anxiety and stress education; and mental health awareness.

  • suicide prevention – M.A.D – H.O.P.E
    Whatcom Prevention Coalition supports the Bellingham School District sponsored M.A.D. – H.O.P.E. (Making A Difference, Helping Other People Everywhere) youth suicide prevention training. M.A.D. – H.O.P.E’s ninety-minute training involves youth in reducing stigma around depression and suicide, understanding protective factors and risk factors, and practicing skills in providing peer support for youth contemplating suicide. The program aims to increase awareness of the power youth have to save lives through connection with one another, and to help them identify caring adults to go to for resources and support. Find out more about M.A.D. – H.O.P.E. here.

    • National Youth Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255; En Espanol: 1-888-628-9454
    • Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889
  • anxiety and stress is a foundation for depression, suicide and other mental health issues. While we partner with organizations like The Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center which specifically address communication and conflict resolution as ways to reduce anxiety and stress, the Whatcom Prevention Coalition also sponsors and hosts events that educate the community about youth brain development stress, anxiety, and risk-taking.

  • mental health awareness
    The 2014 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, a survey taken by more than 200,000 youth, found that one in four adolescents in Whatcom County experienced depression in the past 30 days and that one in six had contemplated suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people between 10 and 26 years of age in Washington State, higher than the national average for that age group.At the Whatcom Prevention Coalition we believe that mental health is too important to talk about just once a year. We encourage you to talk about mental health with your children not just during Mental Health Awareness Month in May, but all year long. Education and awareness are keys to gaining compassion and understanding for those experiencing mental health disorders, especially for our youth.

substance use prevention

The Whatcom Prevention Coalition works to promote healthy youth development and reduce youth substance abuse of marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, e-cigs and vaping and other prescription and illegal drugs, including opioids.

Our work is focused on providing educational materials and support for youth and sharing information and new evidence, research, and local statistics about youth substance use and prevention to our community.  We work closely with the Whatcom County Health Department to distribute information to all seven school districts and to the Whatcom County community.

We use data from the bi-annual Healthy Youth Survey and other research and evidence-based practices to guide our work.

  • tobacco cigarettes: This use has decreased among Whatcom County youth (Healthy Youth Survey, 2014). While this is a success, the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices has increased (Healthy Youth Survey, 2014).  The Whatcom Prevention Coalition works with the Whatcom County Health Department and schools to spread the most accurate information about nicotine products. Our goals are to promote reducing tobacco, e-cig and vaping use among youth and work with local government, retailers and community members to reduce youth’s exposure to these harmful products.

  • e-cig/vaping: Until recently, there was little regulation of the e-cig and vaping industry. On the 2014 HYS, 26% of 12th graders reported using an e-cig device in the past 30 days.Youth advocates in Washington state pushed for legislation to regulate the industry. In April, 2016, Gove Inslee signed SB 6328, establishing guidelines for e-cig use in public places, licenses, labeling, signage and sampling among others. Regulation by the Food and Drug Administration was released in May. Local efforts have limited e-cig use and vaping in public places. While the SB 6328 prohibits e-cig use in places where kids are present, local efforts have added e-cigs to the current Smoking in Public Places legislation.  Coalition members, including youth from Squalicum High School’s Healthy Alliance club, were involved in the recent passage of the Whatcom County no-vaping in public places ordinance bellinghamherald

  • marijuana/cannabis: The legalization of marijuana in Washington State poses significant challenges for preventing youth marijuana use.  The Whatcom Prevention Coalition provides marijuana substance abuse information to schools and our community and works with local dispensaries to limit minors’ access to cannabis.

    • Did you know? A small portion of the tax on cannabis sales helps fund prevention programs and education.
    • Healthy Youth Survey finding: 9 out of 10 Whatcom County youth do NOT smoke marijuana.
  • alcohol is the most abused substance among Whatcom County youth. The Whatcom Prevention Coalition provides information and education on youth alcohol use. We strive to work with retailers and others in our community to reduce the promotion of an alcohol-consuming culture and exposure of alcohol consumption advertising to youth.

  • opioids and other drugs include both prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, and illegal drugs, for example, heroin. The Whatcom Prevention Coalition works to increase awareness about how to keep prescription drugs away from children and youth.We promote drug take-back programs and share information on how to properly dispose of leftover prescription drugs. The Coalition is partnering with the Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) Unity Care, and other community organizations to create a Opiate Use marketing campaign to help increase community awareness, safety and prevention of opiate use. Check back soon for release of the 2017 WCHD Opiate Use Campaign soon!

resiliency and protective factors

Whatcom Prevention Coalition promotes youth resiliency and strengthening youth protective factors in prevention work. Some of these include: prosocial development, social norming, parents and families matter, and the healthy youth survey.

  • prosocial development is at the core of our work. With a focus on a trauma-informed approach and an emphasis on individual and community resiliency, Whatcom Prevention Coalition supports youth-led clubs throughout the seven school districts in the county. Each club has a school staff advisors; students demonstrate strengths in topics of their choice, including substance use, anti-bullying, distracted driving, and arts and crafts to promote leadership, responsibility and connection. Check out the youth clubs. 

  • social norming and social norms shape the way we interact with each other, the things we talk about, the things we laugh about, and the information we spread. WPC’s goal is to share accurate information and continually update the community on topics of youth substance abuse prevention, positive youth development and healthy relationships. We aim to instill hope, encourage action and provide people with the information they need to feel informed.

    A social norms approach is based on correcting misperceptions before changing behavior. The changes in behavior that follow are thought to occur as an outcome of corrected perceptions (National Social Norms Center, Michigan State University). Whatcom Prevention Coalition supports our local youth-led prevention clubs in implementing social norm campaigns to educate their peers on youth drug and alcohol use, and more.

    Click here for examples of social norm campaigns in our local community:

  • parents and families matter. Parents are the leading influence in a youth’s decision not to drink or abuse substances.  Whatcom Prevention Coalition provides information and offers forums for parents and family members.  Parents Matter is a local group of parents interested in healthy youth development and prevention. Go to to request receiving Parent Matter updates on events for parents in Whatcom County.

  • healthy youth survey (HYS) is a collaborative effort of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Department of Health, the Department of Social and Health Service’s Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, the Liquor and Cannabis Board, and the Department of Commerce.The Healthy Youth Survey provides important survey results about the health of adolescents in Washington. County prevention coordinators, community mobilization coalitions, community public health and safety networks, and others use this information to guide policy and programs that serve youth. For local Whatcom County statistics, click here.