In 2016, Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) – a preventive health agency serving the communities of Hermosa
Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach since 1955 – identified substance use prevention and mental health as top health priorities for the Beach Cities youth population, who experience higher levels of substance use, suicidal ideation and anxiety than their statewide peers. From this, the Beach Cities Partnership for Youth
Coalition was created in 2017 with five stakeholder committees: 1) Parents, 2) Mental Health Providers, 3) Youth, 4) School Administrators and 5) Community Members to implement strategies to reduce youth substance use in a community-wide, collaborative and comprehensive manner.
The Beach Cities of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach are within Los Angeles County, with a total population of 123,000. The socioeconomic status of the community – largely white (76.8 %), college-educated (57% of adults 25 years and older hold at least a bachelor’s degree) and with a median household income of more than $100,000 – has created a complicated confluence of affluence and access. Alcohol outlet density is nearly double that of Los Angeles County. While LA County density is 15.1 per 100,000, the densities in Hermosa Beach (47.7), Manhattan Beach (32.6) and Redondo Beach (25.5) make alcohol accessible and acceptable. Beach culture and a mild climate provide opportunities for community events year-round where alcohol is widely available, either for sale or brought by attendees. Social norms dictate that experimenting is a harmless part of coming of age, with 19% of Beach Cities parents saying that occasional underage alcohol use is okay. According to the California Healthy Kids Survey, 42% of Beach Cities 11th graders reported using alcohol or other drugs in the past 30 days.
Additionally, the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2018 in California has decreased youth’s perceived
risk of harm. School administrators report that students vape in plain sight. Infractions at Beach Cities high
schools increased by 450% in the 2018-19 school year due to vaping on campus, with 33% of those infractions for vaping THC.
Key strategies of the Drug-Free Communities program will include strengthening the work of the Coalition by
engaging with local policymakers to pass policies that reduce youth access to alcohol and marijuana, expanding collaboration with families impacted by substance use and working with local school and youth leadership to provide positive youth development opportunities so students are empowered to create a purposeful path for themselves, and have the opportunity to be healthy, happy and to thrive – both in and out of school. For example, the Youth Advisory Council will be creating a Photovoice project to share what teens experience related to marijuana, vaping and alcohol advertising and messaging and will be sharing their perspective at Coalition and other community meetings.
Since 2017, more than 7,000 Beach Cities students, parents, elected officials, business owners, clinicians and
community partners have been engaged in Coalition activities. The Coalition is coordinating with the county
department of public health, local city government and the health district. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Division of Substance Abuse Prevention and Control will have a representative on the Steering
Committee of the Coalition, as well as the Beach Cities Health District and the cities of Hermosa Beach,
Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. This community is ready to untangle the complicated societal and environmental factors that have led to decades of accepted youth substance use. With the support of the Drug-Free Communities Grant, the work of the Beach Cities Partnership for Youth coalition will be accelerated and amplified through an evidence-based model to truly address the most pressing health issues of our youth.