Center for Prevention Services (CPS) was founded at a turning point for drug education efforts nationally. Previous scare tactics and informational approaches were being discredited. Individuals in this emerging field were intuitively convinced that drug education should focus more on people and less on pharmacology. CPS set out to build this people-centered approach on a solid foundation of both theory and practice.
America’s schools were not prepared to address the use/abuse of drugs among youth. By the late 1960s it was clear that drug arrests in Charlotte-Mecklenburg were steadily increasing. In 1969 several community groups began to discuss how to confront this issue. During the Spring of 1970 the Charlotte Junior League, Inc. brought together representatives of 12 community groups. This group became the area’s Drug Abuse Steering Committee.
A survey carried out by the Charlotte Medical Society in the junior and senior high schools in late 1969 made it obvious that there was a significant amount of drug use in schools. By July 1971 both the counseling services and the therapeutic community of Open House, the drug treatment center in Char-Meck, were open and operating. However, to the Junior League and many other involved citizens, not enough attention and support was being offered toward generating services designed to prevent drug problems before they were already established. In September of 1971 the formation of the Drug Education Center (which in 1998 was renamed Substance Abuse Prevention Services and in 2011 was renamed the Center for Prevention Services) was made possible by a Junior League pledge of $25,000 per year for three years. The Board of Directors of the Drug Education Center (DEC) was appointed by the Research Committee of the Junior League. The initial Junior League pledge permitted DEC to hire a director, Dr. Jonnie H. McLeod, and a secretary, Rita Arundell, and to move into its first office on Morehead Street where it set up a small library.
Since 1969, surveys of student drug usage have been conducted by CPS every 2 – 4 years (Youth Drug Survey) and is now one of the longest running longitudinal studies of its kind. The instrument measures the extent and frequency of alcohol and other drug use among Char-Meck youths. This data is used in part to compare our geographic area with others, but also to track trends and measure the increase/decrease in trends over time. In addition, the CPS survey initially identified specific psychological states which are correlated with frequent alcohol and other drug use/abuse. This approach is in alignment with the current federal studies of “risk and protective factors” that affect substance abuse prevention efforts.
CPS’ efforts in its first decade of service in the areas of research, program development and evaluation established it as a leader in drug education on both a state and a national level. In recognition of its leadership position, the DEC was one of twenty drug education programs selected from across the country to represent their programs at the National Substance Abuse Prevention Forum in Omaha, Nebraska in 1975. The DEC was one of only three drug prevention programs with a school-based component invited to testify in Washington before the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control.
On June 12, 1979, the U.S. Office of Education (USOE) – National Institute of Education’s Joint Dissemination Review Panel approved Ombudsman for inclusion in USOE’s National Diffusion Network. Ombudsman was only the second drug abuse prevention program approved for inclusion in the national network of “successful educational programs.” The Ombudsman program successfully served the USOE through July 1988 with many positive results.
Since its inception in 1971, CPS has continued to respond to is primary mission of meeting the substance abuse prevention needs of Mecklenburg County residents. CPS, which began with two employees, now employees 11 full-time and 2 part-time staff. Of those, 10 are devoted to service delivery. CPS was solely a contract agency of Mecklenburg County Division of Human Resources, Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse (now called Area Mental Health) until 1987. In 1987, funding for school-based education programs was moved from the Division of Human Resources to the State Department of Public Instruction. CPS submitted proposals to both the county and the school systems from that point forward, and those contracts accounted for nearly 100% of funding during that time period.
In 2010, CPS began diversification of funding sources. Between 2010 and 2012 CPS grew its contract and grants base from one source to five sources of revenue. The agency continuously seeks new contracts, grants and foundation funds while also providing fee for service contracts with various agencies, such as Workplace Drug Prevention Training. The agency also provides Training of Trainers and sales of curriculum manuals for our proprietary I’m Special curriculum (an off-shoot of Ombudsman developed for elementary-aged children) which was accepted into the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices in January 2011.
Today, Center for Prevention Services has expanded its reach to Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Rowan, Stanly, Union, and Davidson counties by offering numerous evidence-based programs and serving youth and families of all ages.