Project Abstract and Community Overview
Santa Cruz County Drug Free Community Coalition
Nogales, Arizona is a town of 20,103 people located in Santa Cruz County in the southeastern corner of Arizona on the U.S.-Mexico border, across from the city of Nogales, Sonora. It is Arizona’s largest international border town, and although located in Arizona’s smallest county and representing only 20.8 square miles, its population density is over 178% higher than the state average. Nogales is over 94.6% Latino, and 89% of the households are Spanish-speaking, with approximately 1 in 3 households indicating no English language ability. The town is comprised of families living at all levels of acculturation from new immigrants to second and third generation Americans. Almost one-third of Nogales residents fall below the federal poverty line, and 11.8% of the population is uninsured, with 59.6% insured through Medicaid. The current median household income is $28,238 and 63.7% hold at least a high school diploma. Youth under the age of 18 years represent 27.9% of the population, and older adults represent 16.0% of the population, with the remaining 54.3% falling between 18-64 years old. Females represent 51.6% of the population and approximately 89% of the residents are Catholic.
Nogales, AZ and Nogales, Sonora form a single, functional and complex urban fabric with families living on both sides of the border, creating a sense of fluidity that impacts all aspects of life, including culture, language, heritage, character, identity, context, environment and economy. The term Ambos Nogales has been used historically to indicate the need to address historical, social, cultural, environmental and economic factors utilizing a bi-national integrated and inclusive approach. Although Ambos Nogales provides unique economic and cultural opportunities, it also brings unique challenges. The AZ-SON stretch of the border has been the busiest for drug and human smuggling for over a decade and living close to the border residents are continuously confronted with the fall-out. This includes the presence of rival drug cartel activities, cartel propaganda and recruitment, elevated access to supply and the many factors associated with the rites of passage and cultural norms around substance use in our community.
Nogales, like many rural, isolated areas, is a clear representation of the socioeconomic vulnerabilities and health disparities that disproportionately contribute to staggering mortality and morbidity outcomes witnessed in the substance use crisis facing our nation. Access to healthcare is extremely limited for all, and there is a significant overrepresentation of overdose, polysubstance use, and correlated negative outcomes among our predominately Latino population. This is especially true for our young and vulnerable Latino youth.
The Santa Cruz County Drug Free Community Coalition proposes to use a set of community-based strategies and action items to reduce the prevalence and impact of underage drinking and youth marijuana, opioid/Rx drugs and e-cigarette use. The project activities are specifically designed to meet the unique cultural and linguistic needs of the community and utilizes both the Strategic Prevention Framework model and a diverse set of approaches from the Seven Strategies for Community Level Change to: (1) enhance community collaboration and coalition capacity; (2) educate youth, parents and community members on the science-based risks and consequences of youth substance use; (3) address local factors contributing to increased youth access to substances; and (4) address culture norms and attitudes inherent in our rural, isolated border community that are contributing to youth substance use.