Safer spaces with a KRV-CAN do attitude

By Jake Lee Green
Kern Valley Sun

The Kern River Valley Community Action Network (KRV-CAN) has been working hard for the past couple of years to push for a more thoughtful culture when it comes to drugs and drinking. At their general meeting at the Lake Isabella Senior Center on October 29 the group gathered to discuss their successes, current programs, and future endeavors. Having had organized a town hall meeting regarding underage drinking and driving under the influence the week prior, KRV-CAN says the attention towards those issues had been positive. Since then the group has followed up on data collection that the group says will help them in addressing certain issues where underage drinking and drug abuse occurs.

The KRV-CAN has been organizing itself to include all interested parties who are willing to work towards educating the community about the dangers of habitual drinking and drug use. The group itself is comprised of multiple agencies, organizations, and individuals concerned with the current state of the communities drug epidemic. Per capita, the Kern River Valley suffers from what can be statistically considered a plague of hard drugs, under the influence driving, and at-risk youth. The statistics used are based on a county-wide survey that included questions aimed at multiple ethnic and age groups. The use of drugs and drinking in common spaces such as parks and recreational-use facilities is a primary concern of KRV-CAN.

Part of the data being collected on these issues is the garbology report that KRV-CAN compiled from teens and patrons of public spaces. The garbology report is based on the types of garbage being left behind in public spaces and how it reflects the patrons of those common spaces. For example, one of the parks that was included in the garbology report was Tank Park. Data collected shows epidermal needles, discarded clothing, beer cans, and liquor bottles were in surprisingly high numbers at the parks. A bit of conversation stirred as to why this space in particular is susceptible to the use of these substances. This brought into question a larger inquiry for all public-use spaces in the Kern River Valley. ‘Where is the source, and what are the conveniences in using spaces like these for substance use?’ The answers were not so difficult to obtain, but, necessitated a bit of analysis based on what parks and recreation sites were being discussed.

The differences between the uses of certain substances are different depending upon what area of the valley patrons are frequenting. As an example, Riverside Park in Kernville has different issues regarding substance use as opposed to Tank Park in Lake Isabella or Wofford Heights Park. In addition, certain parks are used at different times of the day to conceal the use of drugs and drinking and have a relationship to the amount of lighting and the frequency of supervision by law enforcement. Part of the solution KRV-CAN has played around with is reclaiming public spaces and being unafraid to do so. The encouragement of families to frequent their local parks and recreation sites is paramount to the successes of keeping the spaces drug and alcohol free. This is not necessarily the only solution, however, it may prove to be useful when defining what kind of behavior is acceptable in an area that is designated for the use of youth and family recreation.

Data collection is one part of what KRV-CAN looks at when addressing the mounting issues surrounding substance abuse. The KRV-CAN has adopted what is called a Community-Based Environmental Risk Reduction map. It’s meant to use ‘data and information as a blueprint for change.’ First the problems are defined by what the issue is and where it is happening. Secondly, the root cause is looked at. ‘Why is it happening?’ Third, the local conditions are analyzed. ‘Why is it happening here?’ In theory, each local condition can be traced back to it source problem. By addressing the conditions of the community the group can focus on the root causes of the problem.

KRV-CAN meets every month and the tireless efforts of the group of dedicated folks should not go unnoticed. Their next scheduled meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on November 26 at the Lake Isabella Senior Center.