by Art Slater
On May 30, 2015, at the monthly ACC-Collaborative Faith Leaders Breakfast at the Conference Center on the campus of St. Elizabeths West, ACC delivered a brief presentation to Ward 8 clergy about a program, already in place since the summer of 2014, called Make the Right Choice Campaign, which is implemented by the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and facilitated by Wards 7 & 8 DC Prevention Center, Ward 8 Drug-Free Coalition, Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, with support and linkages with DC Department of Behavioral Health (www.k2zombiedc.com) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), and ACC.
Many in the Ward 8 Community already know that as far back as 1997 the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC) was a pioneer in efforts to combat the sale of drug paraphernalia as well as reducing the overwhelming amount of marketing of alcohol and tobacco products aimed at Ward 8 residents, especially youth, in a ward where positive health outcomes lag behind other parts of D.C. and chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and negative health conditions are registered among the highest in the city.
The idea behind the Make the Right Choice Campaign is simple. DC residents, community stakeholders, local businesses, city agencies and area non-profits get together for training on what synthetic marijuana is, what effects it has on the human body, and why its effects are so devastating to the to the mental and physical health of our community as a whole, and to youth in particular.
The second ingredient is the encouragement/enforcement piece which encourages businesses to sign the Make the Right Choice pledge, similar to a voluntary agreement, not to sell these illegal substances. Failure to abide by the agreements can result in fines and/or revocation of their business licenses.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Campaign shows how you as a resident and community steward can have a direct impact by being trained to engage your local businesses on being good neighbors and by fostering mutual respect in building a healthier environment in which customers and business can thrive.
ACC was set to help roll out a local implementation of the program in Ward 8 this month in fact when, as the saying goes “man proposes but God disposes”. Over this past June 5th weekend, various news and media outlets, along with the DC government, reported mass overdoses in D.C. on synthetic marijuana products known as K2, Bizzaro, Scoobie Snax, Spice and under other names, that are cheap, marketed in brightly colored packaging and that cause immediate and serious damage to its users, their families, and has short- and long-term ripple effects throughout our health care system.
While there are so many “we’re here to help” agency programs ready to address serious community issues, and we are grateful for them and contribute to them with our tax dollars, the Make the Right Choice Campaign is one that provides the community a way to participate personally in helping to ensure a safe and productive summer for us all with more options to make healthier choices.
As early as this week, ACC, along with its training partners, will be offering training sessions for the Make the Right Choice campaign, once arrangements for the training site(s) have been finalized. We ask that you please be ready to receive training, participate, and prevent the events of this past weekend from happening in the community in which we live, work, play, worship, and raise and educate our children.
 History to End the Sale of Drug Paraphernalia and Synthetic Marijuana in Stores, Wards 7 & 8 DC Prevention Center circular.
 District of Columbia Health Needs Assessment 2013, DC Department of Health.
 Thomas à Kempis, in Of the Imitation of Christ, ca. 1450 A.D.
 DC Executive Office of the Mayor - Public Health Advisory: Dangerous Synthetic Drug Use Leading to Overdoses