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Youth Filmmakers Master the Fine Art of Prevention

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East Portlanders Inspiring Change
Portland, Oregon

In 2013, the cost to Oregon (PDF—346KB) of underage drinking was an estimated $589,700—or more than half a billion dollars. Much of this cost burden falls on the Portland metropolitan area, where nearly half of Oregon’s population (46 percent) lives.

Portland is the county seat of Multnomah County. According to a report, “Multnomah County’s Epidemiological Data on Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health 2000 to 2012,” 8th-grade students in the county drank alcohol at lower rates than the statewide average. By 11th grade, however, current and binge drinking rates were similar or higher than statewide averages.

Comparison of Alcohol Use by 8th- and 11th-Grade Students, 2012
Alcohol Use, by Grade

Multnomah County


8th-Grade Current Use (past 30 days) 17% 20%
8th-Grade Binge Use 6% 8%
11th-Grade Current Use 39% 36%
11th-Grade Binge Use 21% 21%

Several agencies and organizations in the Portland area collaborate to reduce underage drinking. For example, Northwestern Behavioral Healthcare Services joined forces with Lines for Life (originally known as the Oregon Partnership) and East Portlanders Inspiring Change, or EPIC (an all-volunteer organization, without formal funding), to collaborate on a unique youth-led 2014 underage drinking prevention Town Hall Meeting.

In preparation for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-sponsored event, EPIC asked members of the newly-formed EPIC Youth to decide how to engage their peers and their community in prevention. The youth responded by writing, producing, and editing “Outcast,” a movie that illustrated conditions in East Portland that they believe place them at increased risk for underage drinking and other dangerous behaviors. The completed film looked at such issues as bullying, school struggles, family problems, and the emotional stresses experienced by many local youth.

Event Description
The Town Hall Meeting premier of “Outcast” took place on Thursday afternoon, December 11, 2014, at Portland’s historic Academy Theater, a showcase for first-run movies. The young filmmakers from EPIC Youth were on hand to introduce the film, discuss their reasons for making “Outcast,” explain why they became committed to EPIC’s underage drinking prevention efforts, and discuss changes they hoped to help bring about among other youth and their families in the community. The EPIC Youth presenters also engaged audience members in a lively dialogue about alcohol use among teens in East Portland, and what could be done to reduce and prevent it.

railroad tracksMeasures of Success
More than 50 East Portlanders, including many teens, were on hand to see and discuss “Outcast.” The event planted seeds for further collaboration among EPIC Youth, Lines for Life, and David Douglas High School (DDHS). With an enrollment of more than 3,100 students, DDHS is Oregon’s largest public school and home to the Multnomah County School-Based Health Clinic. As a result, a new after-school prevention club, LEGACY, and a youth advisory council for the health clinic were formed. For EPIC and its Town Hall Meeting partners, the most valuable outcome from the Town Hall Meeting was the development of a cadre of committed young prevention advocates. Long before the event, these young people met weekly to plan the making of their film and its public showing. Through this experience, they learned first-hand how public art collaboration can transform communities, introduce environmental prevention strategies, and foster positive change.

Next Steps
A fall 2015 showing of “Outcast” at DDHS is expected to raise student awareness and attract additional participation in LEGACY. Oregon House of Representatives member Shemia Fagan has agreed to support the next EPIC Youth project, which is being developed in partnership with Free Arts NW and Powelhurst Gilbert Neighborhood Association. Members of EPIC Youth will increase public recognition of underage drinking and substance abuse—they are being trained in creating murals and will participate in community meetings to design a mural commemorating the alcohol-related death of a DDHS student.

Kristine Bella

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