Despite a new leader, a new face and a new moniker, the mission stays the same for Dothan-Houston County Substance Abuse Partnership — also known as the (334) Prevention Program.
“We go into schools to educate our children on drugs, alcohol, tobacco and vaping,” Executive Director Judy Guiler said. “It’s the same direction. Why change something that’s worked for 27 years?”
A whirlwind of changes have recently affected the organization that Dothan City and Houston County commissioners initiated in 1992 to combat drug problems among the youth of the community. The group hired Roxane Fuentes to serve as community coordinator, Guiler was elevated to executive director after the departure of Susan Trawick and the group rebranded with an updated name.
While the organization legally remains the Dothan-Houston County Substance Abuse Partnership, those involved have promoted (334) Prevention Program as its new identity thanks to marketing director Jessica Motley’s idea.
“We tried to change the name to Prevention Program, and it wasn’t catchy enough,” Guiler said. “Jessica put (334) in front of it. It’s a little easier to say (than Dothan-Houston County Substance Abuse Partnership). It tells you exactly what we do. The kids like it.”
Motley said the idea stemmed from a marketing and branding session she attended at a July conference. The group quickly moved on the idea — completing steps like purchasing internet domain names and designing logos — leading to a September launching of the new name.
While the mission for the organization has remained the same throughout the years, the methods and some subject matters have changed as the culture morphs, Guiler said. Visits to schools cover a wide array of topics — depending on age groups — and include discussions on vaping, bullying and sexting in addition to the traditional drug and alcohol speeches.
Guiler said technological advances, especially with smartphones, make education of those subjects vital in today’s culture.
“They are taking the bullying home,” she said. “We tell them it’s OK to let adults know it’s happening.”
“It’s pretty shocking how many of the kids have phones,” Motley added.
A youth council has been another standard for the Substance Abuse Partnership throughout the years, and the group plans on revamping the group soon.
Organizers invite high school students from any Dothan or Houston County school interested in serving on the council to attend a launch party on Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. at the program’s Dogwood Court office.
“They’ll develop leadership skills like (public) speaking. They’ll get volunteer hours,” Fuentes said. “They can earn scholarships from us and our sponsors.”
The bulk of the group’s funding stems from the City of Dothan, the Houston County government and United Way. The program conducts one major fundraiser each year — a local “Dancing with the Stars” event.
Guiler said the organization is currently seeking dancers for the next event. For more information, contact the (334) Prevention Program at 699-2813.