Monthly Archives: October 2014

The End of an Era: GUIDE Says Goodbye to Ari Russell

Today marks the end of an era in Gwinnett County, in Georgia and in the field of prevention. One of the pioneers of the prevention field and biggest difference-makers in our community, Ari Russell, retires today after 28 years and 3 months of service as the Executive Director of GUIDE.

RUS_9768GUIDE was formed as a joint effort between the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and the Gwinnett County Board of Education. They wanted to have a comprehensive, coordinated and proactive approach to reducing and preventing substance use and abuse. A steering committee of prominent Gwinnett leaders developed a preliminary plan and secured funding to hire an Executive Director. Ari Russell was hired in July of 1986 and has been at the helm of this agency ever since.

Under Ari’s leadership GUIDE has had many significant accomplishments, including:

  • Conducting a prevention needs assessment in 1986 that lead to recommendations to the Gwinnett County Board of Education that were subsequently adopted; including the adoption of K-12 drug prevention curriculum, providing staff development about prevention issues, conducting drug use surveys on a regular basis, and adopting a no-smoking policy that included faculty and staff;
  • Working with the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department to develop the ADVANCE program, a substance abuse and violence prevention curriculum that was conducted by deputies in all fifth grade classes in Gwinnett;
  • Overseeing all state-funded prevention services in Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton Counties for five years, helping to build the infrastructure in Rockdale and Newton Counties until the Family Connection Collaboratives were able to take on the responsibilities;
  • Partnering with Public Health to secure a CDC tobacco prevention grant that led to the formation of Smoke Free Gwinnett and, eventually, the adoption of clean indoor air ordinances in three Gwinnett cities, followed by the County;
  • Establishing the Gwinnett Alliance With Youth that formed Community Cluster Care Teams in every school cluster, increased public awareness about risk and protective factors and developmental assets and instituted the “Champions” project;
  • Originating the Georgia Teen Institute in 1989. This program has operated annually since then with over 12,000 youth having participated in the program;
  • Developing Youth Volunteer Centers in 1998. The first was located at Collins Hill High School, and supported by funding from United Way. The initiative evolved into the Youth Leadership & Action program and the 3-Year Youth Action Team Empowerment Model. Since 1998, over fifty Youth Action Teams have been established, providing youth leadership and service opportunities for thousands of middle and high school students in Gwinnett County.
  • Establishing the GUIDE Youth Advisory Board and College Advisory Board.

RUS_9723 (1)Ari was one of the founders of the National Association of Prevention Professionals and Advocates, a membership organization that advocated on a national level for professionalism in the field and adoption of research-based strategies and of the Prevention Credentialing Consortium of Georgia, bringing a professional certification to prevention specialists in Georgia. In 2007, Ari received the first Ray Avant Excellence in Prevention Award from the Georgia Office of Prevention Services and Programs for her contributions to the field, and in 2011 she was the Georgia nominee for IC/RC Prevention Professional of the Year. More recently, Ari was honored with the Extraordinary Contribution to Prevention Award from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Barbara King Community Hero Award from the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services.

The number of lives impacted through the work GUIDE has accomplished in the last 28 years are immeasurable, and Ari has been the catalyst for the change that has occurred in Gwinnett and across Georgia. Never one to lead from behind her desk, Ari has not only been the brains and creativity behind many innovative, cutting-edge and meaningful programs and projects, she was often the one implementing the programs, too. Over the years, Ari’s job – in addition to the day-to-day work of being an Executive Director – has included leading Arts and Crafts at the Georgia Teen Institute, teaching hundreds of workshops (and making the thousands of copies that go with them) and feeding hundreds of youth and adults at various training events and Teen Institutes. A mentor, friend and role model for other GUIDE Staff and many others across the state, Ari’s leadership has influenced many prevention professionals and partners and is felt throughout our field and our state. 


Earlier this week, as we closed our final staff meeting together, we said to Ari, “This is all because of you.” Though she’s always collaborated, found partners and sought funding to see visions become realities and had a team of colleagues at her side, the state of prevention in Gwinnett wouldn’t be where it is without Ari. Though she’s been fortunate enough to work with incredible leaders across the state, region and country,  prevention in Georgia would look very different if it had not had Ari. Though there are countless partners in the work GUIDE does that makes us successful every day, the work GUIDE has accomplished wouldn’t be the same without Ari.

Today is the end of an era. It won’t be easy for many of us. Change of this magnitude is frightening, and we know that no one can fill Ari’s big shoes. Ari is a legend, a pioneer, a visionary, a change maker. Her influence will be felt far and wide for many years to come. And Ari can leave knowing that her life, her work and her leadership made a difference.

If you would like to join us as we celebrate Ari and our next Executive Director, Jessica Andrews-Wilson, please join us on November 14 for our “Pass the Torch” celebration. For details on this event and to RSVP, click here

Thank you, Ari, for 28 years of service to Gwinnett County, Georgia and the prevention field. You will be missed!


Tips on Sipping and Serving

The holiday season is just around the corner. That usually means parties, get-togethers and celebrations, and many of them will involve eating and drinking. It’s your responsibility as a guest or a host to manage each event without putting yourself or your guests in jeopardy. In honor of Red Ribbon Week, here are a few tips on how to be a responsible host and keep your guests safe:

PartyHosting an Adult Event Involving Alcohol:

  • Serve non-salty food before people start drinking. High protein foods and carbohydrates are best because they will fill people up and slow the absorption of alcohol. High protein snacks include cheese, meats and unsalted nuts; carbs include crackers and breads, pasta and fruit.
  • Drinking should not be a primary activity, and no one should be pressured to drink alcoholic beverages. Have non-alcoholic beverages available, attractively displayed and easily accessible. 
  • If you are serving pre-made drinks or punch with alcohol in it, label it as containing alcohol.
  • Ask friends and family (or employees if it’s a business function) to volunteer to be designated drivers in advance.
  • Do not encourage or tolerate excessive drinking. Don’t forget that anyone who serves alcohol to guests, employees or customers is liable for any consequences that may occur because of intoxication.
  • Stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the end of the event to give guests time to sober up. Only time will allow someone to become sober. Contrary to popular belief, coffee, exercise and cold showers do not sober someone up more quickly.

Hosting a Youth or Young Adult Event:

  • Do not serve alcohol or allow alcohol to be brought in if your guests are under age 21. It’s that simple. It’s illegal to serve alcohol to anyone under 21.
  • Plan the event with the youth so they can choose the food and non-alcoholic drinks they would like to have.
  • Themes often make a party more memorable and can help when picking out decorations, food and activities.
  • Assure other parents that the event will have adult supervision and no alcohol.

When You Are the Guest:

  • It is always okay to abstain from drinking alcohol, especially if you will be driving. Do someone else a favor and volunteer to be a designated driver.
  • If you usually drink, there are certain times when you should choose not to or at least drink less. Any time you drink, you should consider the following:
    • Body size: The smaller you are, the more impaired you will be after drinking because alcohol will affect you more.
    • Gender: Women experience greater impairment than men, especially around your period.
    • How fast you drink: Try to never drink more than one drink an hour. It takes your body about an hour to metabolize an ounce of alcohol.
    • Tired or sick: Alcohol will have a greater impact on you if you’re tired, sick or just getting over being sick. 
    • Medications: Alcohol can interact in serious and negative ways with many medications. Check with your pharmacist to find out whether this is the case with any prescription or over-the-counter medications you take. 
    • Empty stomach: Food slows down absorption of alcohol. Eat high protein foods like meat, fish or cheese before drinking.
    • Pregnant: If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, it is best not to drink alcohol.

National studies estimate that one out of every seven drivers on a Friday or Saturday night are impaired, driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs. This number increases over any holiday period. Almost half of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related. Make sure you do contribute to these statistics. 

mocktailHere are a few recipes for non-alcoholic “mocktails.” Whip up a batch for your next party!

Margarita Mocktail

Mix ¼ cup sour drink mix, a splash of lime juice, a splash of lemon juice and ice in a blender. Blend until icy and smooth. Dip the rim of a glass in lime juice and then salt before pouring the drink in the glass. Serve with a wedge of lime.

Coco Colada

In a blender, add 1 cup of ice, 4 oz of pineapple juice and 2 oz of coconut cream. Blend until slushy and drain into a glass. Garnish with a piece of pineapple.

Virgin Mary

In a glass filled with ice, add 4 oz tomato juice, a dash of tabasco sauce, dash of Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a celery stalk.

Cranberry Sparkler

Put several dried cranberries in a glass. Add lemon-lime club soda and a splash of cranberry juice.

SPF Series Kickoff: What It Is & Why We Use It

Give me an S…..S! Give me a P……P! Give me an F….F!

What does that spell?


You may be wondering – why all this commotion about “SPF?” What does it even mean?

Well, in the next few moments, we will try and answer that question for you!

041SPF stands for the Strategic Prevention Framework. The SPF is a model used to plan community level programs or projects. Community leaders, including state and federal prevention officers, use the SPF to help guide the strategies they use to prevent alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) use. This is also a great tool for Youth Action Teams to use when planning projects!

The SPF consists of 5 steps. Here’s a fun and easy way to remember all the steps of the SPF.


Think of it as the ABCs of the SPF PIE:


The first step of the SPF involves assessing your community’s needs by gathering and analyzing data to identify and address local problems and resources. By identifying the real needs of your community, you are able to plan programs and projects that are appropriate interventions and will actually make a difference.

BC=Building Capacity

The next step of the SPF is capacity building, or as we refer to it, building capacity. This step is important because it involves identifying what resources are available in your community and deciding how you might be able to use each resource to meet program or project goals.


Planning is the third step of the SPF and is where you will spend most of your time. In this phase, you develop a logical, data-driven plan with evidence-based policies, programs and practices to address problems identified in the community assessment.


The fourth step, implementation, simply means to carry out the program or project or take action based on the plan you created in the Planning stage. Implementation takes place on the day of your project or over the course of your program or campaign. It includes all the activities that are a part of your project plan, including your evaluation.


The evaluation process not only includes determining how well your project went and measuring its impact, but whether or not it accomplished what you intended. The evaluation process should help you decide if your program, strategy, or project should be terminated or replaced, improved for next time, or done over and over again.

Don’t forget… the SPF also involves two important elements for effective and successful prevention initiatives.

These two elements are sustainability link and cultural competence. You should address these in every step to ensure that your efforts are designed to last and meet the diverse needs of your community.

Why We Use the SPF:

RUS_6345 (2)At GUIDE, we use the SPF in everything we do, whether it is for our Alcohol Prevention Project, various conferences and trainings we are planning, Georgia Teen Institute, social media campaigns or simply the general operation of our office and staff.

Why do we use the SPF? We use the SPF because it proves to be a very useful tool to help us be successful in all of our endeavors. By using the Strategic Prevention Framework, we are able to identify and assess the key issues and problems in our community, build long-lasting connections with diverse partners, have access to abundant resources we can use to address different issues, plan and implement evidence-based strategies, reach our goals and learn how to improve and make things better than before.

We also have the opportunity to share our knowledge and experiences of using the SPF with youth and adults around the state to teach them how to create sustainable and effective projects to better their community.

To better acquaint you with the SPF process, we will be writing a series of blogs about the SPF over the next several months. Stay tuned for our next post on Assessment coming in November!

Red Ribbon Week Project Idea: Boo Bags

Boo to DrugsWondering what goodies you can give away at your local Trunk or Treat or from your door on Halloween? We’ve got a great idea for you. This project would be a great addition to your Red Ribbon Week festivities or to add onto a Fall Festival or Health Fair, too. 

For this project, you’ll put together small goody bags with candy or other items and attach tags with messages associated with the goodies in the bags. Candy should be individually wrapped. Avoid chocolates because they melt. Small clear or colorful cellophane bags can be purchased with seasonal themes and cards can be tied to ribbon to close the bags. They can also be assembled by simply using sandwich baggies with the cards inside or taped to the outside.

Here are some suggestions for what you could include in these, “Say Boo to Drugs” bags

Bags contain: Starbursts, Tootsie Rolls, Dum Dum lollipops, Smarties and a Blow Pop. 

The attached cards with Halloween themes read: 

  • I’m a “smartie” – I stay drug-free!
  • I reach for the “stars” – not drugs!
  • I’m no “dum-dum”…alcohol is not for me!
  • Drinking has no “roll” in my life!
  • I’m not going to “blow” it by using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs!

Use your imagination to come up with more ideas using small items or other candies.

Here are some other ideas:

  • IMG_7258Candy corn (Being drug free isn’t “corny”)
  • Bubble gum (I chew “gum,” not tobacco)
  • Riesen (My future is the “riesen” I’m drug-free)
  • Peanut M&Ms (You’d have to be “nuts” to use drugs)
  • Life Savers (Be a “life saver” – help your friends stay drug free)
  • Small high bounce ball (I can “bounce” back from problems without drinking)

If you want a free printable of these goody bag tags, click here

If you use our printables or create your own, let us know! We’d love to know where and how these are being distributed and if you’ve got other ideas about what candies or toys you could include with drug-free messages! 

Healthy Relaxation Techniques for Youth Stress

Today’s youth face more stress than ever before. From academic stress including classes, homework, papers, grades and growing competition to family stress including parent expectations, conflicts, siblings and changes in structure, youth feel stress in numerous aspects of their life. Because youth are not equipped with effective relaxation techniques, they sometimes rely on unhealthy responses, like illegal drugs and alcohol use. Partnership for a Drug Free America states that 73% of teenagers reported school stress as the primary reason for drug use. Youth are often seeking psychological or physical pleasure, but are not aware of how dangerous drug use can be, especially prescription drugs not prescribed to the individual. In a recent study, young adults stated they use prescription drugs to study, deal with problems and feel better. To learn more about stress and it’s correlation to drug and alcohol use, The Medicine Abuse Project is a great resource. 


According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, other common factors that cause stress in youth include the following:

  • Negative thoughts and feelings about themselves
  • School demands and frustrations
  • Changes in their bodies
  • Problems with friends and/or peers at school
  • Unsafe living environment/neighborhood
  • Separation or divorce of parents
  • Chronic illness or severe problems in the family
  • Meath of a loved one
  • Moving or changing schools
  • Taking on too many activities or having too high expectations
  • Family financial problems

A lot of youth are not equipped with the stress management tools to effectively handle the large amounts of stress they face daily. If stress is not managed effectively, it can lead to negative self-talk, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, aggression, physical illness and illegal drug and alcohol use. When the human brain responds to stress, a physiological response occurs in both our brain and throughout our body. This is known as the “fight or flight” response that includes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and production of adrenaline. The response may also cause upset stomach and cold or clammy hands and feet.

The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital focuses copious amounts of research on Relaxation Response. There, Dr. Herbert Benson’s research indicates that the relaxation response is just as important for the body as the original stress response. Once the individual decides the stressful situation is no longer dangerous, the brain and body help us begin to relax. This includes a decrease in each response, especially a reduction in blood pressure. Youth who practice relaxation techniques have been shown to be healthier, happier and calmer. Just by learning to take a deep breath before a stressful situation, youth can be better prepared throughout their lives to handle any stress triggers they are facing.

Fortunately, parents and those working with youth can help aid in the reduction of stress. According to Stress Free Kids, adults can help youth in the following ways:

  • Monitor if stress is affecting their teen’s health, behavior, thoughts, or feelings.
  • Listen carefully to teens and watch for overloading.
  • Learn and model stress management skills.
  • Support involvement in sports and other pro-social activities.

Teens can help themselves by decreasing stress with the following behaviors and techniques:

  • Avoid illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
  • Exercise and eat regularly.
  • Avoid excess caffeine intake, which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation.
  • Learn relaxation exercises (abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques).
  • Develop assertiveness training skills. For example, state feelings in polite and firm and not overly aggressive or passive ways such as “I feel angry when you yell at me,” and “Please stop yelling.”
  • Rehearse and practice situations which cause stress. One example is taking a speech class if talking in front of a class makes you anxious.
  • Learn practical coping skills. For example, break a large task into smaller, more attainable tasks.
  • Decrease negative self talk: challenge negative thoughts about yourself with alternative neutral or positive thoughts. “My life will never get better” can be transformed into “My life will get better if I work at it and get some help.”
  • Learn to feel good about doing a competent or “good enough” job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others.
  • Take a break from stressful situations. Activities like listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet can reduce stress.
  • Learn to say “no.” It is important for youth to understand they do not have to participate in everything they are asked to do.
  • Get enough sleep. Youth need as much sleep as small children, about 10 hours each night.
  • Build a network of friends who help you cope in a positive way.

Learning relaxation exercises including abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques are skills that all youth should be equipped with. They can practice them before a big test or during a stressful family situation. PTSD Online Coach provides online resources to help work on worry and anxiety. By utilizing the following techniques and practicing them often, youth will be one step closer to feeling less stress:

  1. Be in the present moment.
  2. Put your phone away.
  3. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and put your hand on your thighs.
  4. Keep your head straight ahead.
  5. Close your eyes.
  6. Focus on counting.
  7. Feel the inhale and exhale.
  8. Note your stray thoughts and release them.
  9. You are in a safe place.
  10. Ignore everything around you.
  11. Breathe in/out.
  12. Up to your nose, out to your diaphragm (3 min.) try to get to 10 minutes.

By utilizing these and other techniques that are effective for the individual person, youth can and will begin to properly manage stress. Working with them to identify what works best will set them up for a lifetime of success in handling stressful situations. With Red Ribbon Week around the corner, we hope you will adopt drug-free relaxation techniques, as well as share them with youth in your life and encourage the same positive, healthy behaviors.

Marijuana & Rx Drug Abuse: Myths and Issues

As you may know, in honor of Red Ribbon Week, GUIDE is leading Walk the Talks at different parks around Gwinnett County this month!

We are having our second Walk the Talk today where we discuss the myths and issues around marijuana use and prescription drug misuse and abuse.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE to see what you know about marijuana and prescription drugs.

  1. Marijuana is not harmful.

True or False?

  1. Marijuana is addictive.

True or False?

  1. Marijuana must be smoked or eaten to receive medical benefits.

True or False?

  1. One in five kids who reports having misused or abused a prescription drug has done so before the age of 16.

True or False?

  1. Every 19 minutes, someone dies from overdose deaths in the United States.

True or False?



  1. False- Marijuana is more harmful than you think!

According to SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana):

  • There has been an increase in ER visits because of marijuana use.
  • “Marijuana use directly affects the brain, specifically the parts responsible for memory, learning, attention, and reaction time. These effects can last up to 28 days.”
  • Studies show marijuana is related to dropping out of schools and subsequent unemployment.
  • A study in 2012 found that, among the adolescents who used marijuana persistently and heavily, their IQ dropped by as much as eight points.
  • Marijuana use doubles the risk of car accidents.

Graphic 1

If you take a look at this infographic from National Families in Action, it illustrates data about the problems Colorado had with marijuana even before it was legally sold. School expulsions, ER visits, and pot-related charges all increased.

Their data also shows that marijuana use has doubled and belief in harm has plummeted since the drive to legalize marijuana as medicine began.


  1. True- Marijuana is addictive.
    • 1 in 10 people who try marijuana will become addicted and experience withdrawal and cravings from the dependence.
    • The chances for addiction are 1 in 6 if marijuana use starts in adolescence.
  1. False- Marijuana does not have to be smoked or eaten in order for someone to receive any medical benefits. Many people don’t realize that certain components of the plant can be extracted and delivered safely in a pill form without the dangerous effects of THC.

Even scientific and medical communities say that smoked marijuana is not medicine.

In many places with medical marijuana dispensaries, there are edibles, various edible food products infused with marijuana, which have created problems and can have dangerous effects.

Graphic 2






  1. False- According to the Medicine Abuse Project, “one in five kids who reports having misused or abused a prescription drug has done so before the age of 14.”

Graphic 3Prescription (Rx) drug abuse is another issue affecting our young people, and its abuse is increasing nationally. Some even call it an epidemic, which is shown in the infographic from



  1. True- “One person dies every 19 minutes from overdose deaths in the United States.” 

Abusing Rx drugs is dangerous and can be fatal from overdose, mixing different medications together, and/or mixing prescription drugs with alcohol.

The Think About It campaign tells us that family and friends are the biggest suppliers of abuse prescription drugs.


So…what can we do?

We can help fight this epidemic of prescription drug misuse and abuse.

Learn more about the different ways you can help prevent prescription drug abuse by safely storing and disposing of your medications.

Graphic 4

For more resources and information, see the GA Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Initiative.

Team Building Activity: Straw Challenge

Straw Challenge 

IMG_1023This activity is a super simple and inexpensive way to get your group working as a cohesive team!

Time Needed: 10-15 minutes

Group Size: Any

Materials: Straws for each person in the group (ones that are NOT bendy work best)


RUS_7117 (1)Give each person a straw, have them form a circle, and then hold their straw against the pointer finger of their right hand.

Have them cross their left arm across their right arm and press the tip of their pointer finger on their left hand against the end of their neighbor on the rights’ straw. This should allow the tip of each of their pointers to be in contact with a straw. No other part of any person’s hand, other than their pointer fingers, may touch the straws from this point on.

Now have the group make a series of movements to see how few times they will drop the straws. Have the group move in a circle to their left until they are back in their original position again. Afterward, have the group move 5-15 feet (depending on how much space you have) in a direction from where they are standing, and then return to their original location.

RUS_7114If at any point someone drops a straw, the entire group must stop and allow the person who dropped the straw time to pick it up and get into position again.

There is no elimination for dropping a straw. 

Debrief Questions:

  • How did your neighbor’s movement affect yours?
  • Were you affected by movement across the circle?
  • In our group how do we affect each other?
  • What can each of us do to think about how our activities affect others, especially as leaders?

We encourage you to complete this activity with the youth you serve, staff you work with, or both! If you do, please make sure to let us know how it goes!