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By Susan Parmelee

I am pleased to announce that the White House Drug Policy Office awarded $625,000 through the Drug Free Communities program to the Wellness & Prevention Coalition to prevent youth substance use in San Clemente over the next five years. The Wellness & Prevention Center has a new social worker, Lauren Gallegos, who will take on the role of Community Prevention Director. Lauren will be responsible for leading the Wellness & Prevention Coalition as well as other prevention activities in the South Orange County area.

The Wellness & Prevention Coalition is comprised of community members from 12 different sectors who volunteer their time to assess needs, create goals for change, develop a 12-month plan and implement strategies to lower youth substance use.

The Coalition’s leadership devotes extra time to overseeing the success of the coalition’s goals and strategic plan. The 12-sector leaders are Zulma Diaz representing our youth; the city of San Clemente’s Community Development Director, Cecilia Gallardo-Daly; Pondo Vleisides from Community Outreach Alliance; Sgt. Clayton Cranford from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; Susan Jenrich from the Outlets at San Clemente; Aron McKay from the Table Community Church; Marci Mednick from Mission Hospital Community Benefit; Jen Anthony, representing parents; William H. Carson from Picket Fence Media; Chris Carter, principal of San Clemente High School; Kelli Krecker-Lewis from National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Orange County; and Mike Darnold from the San Clemente Rotary Club.

Many of the youth and adult Wellness & Prevention Coalition members have received training in evidence-based prevention tools. The philosophy behind the Drug Free Communities funding is that communities know best how to change patterns of youth substance use in their communities.

To receive this funding, the Wellness & Prevention Coalition completed a communitywide assessment through surveys, focus groups and interviews with local key informants involved with youth health and safety. The results of this assessment revealed that our youth could use more support in lowering their use of alcohol and marijuana. While the majority of San Clemente youth choose not to use alcohol, marijuana and other drugs, the community needs to help lower rates of underage use in order to prevent addiction.

The success of the Wellness & Prevention Coalition’s five-year plan depends on contributions from the community. All Coalition meetings are open to the public and the Coalition depends on community-wide participation to meet the goal of lowering substance use. Please plan to attend town hall meetings and education events that the Coalition sponsors. Participation at these events is vital to building healthy communities. There is also a very active youth coalition, SC Shift, which is focusing on underage drinking. The leaders of this group have received extensive training in proven prevention techniques and invite other youth to join them.

We encourage everyone in the community to offer their time, talent or financial support to help our youth lead healthy substance-free lives. The grant requires a dollar-for-dollar match, including volunteer time in order for the coalition to continue to receive funding. You can donate online at To volunteer time and talent, please email The Wellness & Prevention Coalition meets on the second Tuesday of each month from 4-5:30 p.m. in the former Ole Hanson/San Clemente High School upper campus administration building, now the home of the Wellness & Prevention Center at 189 Avenida La Cuesta.

Susan Parmelee is a mental health social worker and one of the founders of the Wellness & Prevention Center, San Clemente. She can be reached at


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