The Prevent Coalition Rural Network has published a first-of-its-kind report identifying the unique factors that influence youth substance use in rural communities across the state.

The authors of the Rural Healthy Youth Survey Data Report analyzed survey input from young people in schools across Washington state, comparing substance use rates, trends, risk and protective factors between rural and non-rural communities.

The report is the second of a two-part needs assessment of rural youth substance use, developed by the Health Assessment and Evaluation (HAE) team of Clark County Public Health in partnership with Prevent Coalition. This is the first time this type of data has ever been collected, analyzed or reported on.

“We’re pleased to publish this report on behalf of the Rural Network,” explained Christopher Belisle, Community Prevention Project Coordinator. “It’s so important because we have never been able to pull out a rural sample and compare it to non-rural areas. Now, rural areas can use this sample to build their programs.”

One takeaway from the report was the discovery that the biggest protective factor against rural youth marijuana use is a positive adult presence. For example, rural Washington 10th graders who have an adult they can turn to if they feel sad have a 2.7 times lower rate of current marijuana use. The report also found that the biggest risk factor for rural youth marijuana use is friend’s behaviors and attitudes toward drug use. Rural Washington 10th graders with close friends who have used marijuana have a 9.9 times higher rate of current marijuana use.

“This important data will be useful for coalitions, schools and other organizations to help understand issues facing rural youth,” said Belisle. “It will also help to better understand how rural communities have unique circumstances when compared to their non-rural counterparts, and thus require dedicated support and interventions.”

Since access to rural health data is often limited, this aggregated data for the state of Washington is groundbreaking. The next steps are to build an online toolkit for rural communities to use for targeting and minimizing adolescent substance abuse.

The public is encouraged to get involved. Additional resources are located on the Prevent Coalition website as well as an online calendar of events. Please contact Christopher Belisle for additional information.

Click here to access the new report. To review the first half of the needs assessment, click here.

About Prevent Coalition:

Supported by the fiscal agent ESD 112, Prevent Coalition is a community coalition formed in 2003 to increase collaboration, awareness, and reduce youth substance use in Southwest Washington. Prevent also implements initiatives for rural communities across Washington state. As a community mobilizer, we’re creating a culture promoting healthy choices; advocating for policies and regulations that protect, empower and nurture youth; and facilitating positive opportunities for youth to be involved and thrive. For more info, visit