But substance use prevention and intervention are not just a part of Mounts’ job – they’re a part of his history.
“I left the publishing world in 2015 to seek work in the social services field because of my own personal experiences with addiction, treatment and recovery,” he explains. “I am currently over eight-and-a-half years sober and in active, long-term recovery.”
Before his current role at AARC, Mounts was the Prevention Director from 2016 to 2021. Through his first position at AARC, Mounts became actively involved in the Partnership. He quickly became chair of the Prevention Committee, and his unique lived experiences have helped him move Partnership initiatives forward.
“AARC has always believed that the Partnership's efforts aligned with our mission. We have found the coalition's networking, collaboration and educational components to be beneficial to the overall health and wellness of the community,” Mounts says.
AARC has been an ideal organization for Mounts, who advocates for better drug prevention and intervention resources across the county. “We provide a multi-tiered suite of services, including prevention/education programs and campaigns, substance use disorder assessments and referral to treatment, mental health counseling and therapy, and resources for the community related to substance use, addiction, treatment, recovery, mental health and wellness.”
Relying On Optimism for Better Prevention
Something immediately noticeable about Mounts is his positive attitude. Substance use prevention and intervention work can be overwhelming and saddening, especially for people who’ve experienced it first-hand. But Mounts knows how vital optimism is in this field. And his bright outlook helps him identify inspiration in everything.
“I am most inspired by the breadth and depth of organizations and individuals working to find solutions for the problems we face,” he says. “Every day, I learn something new about our field and what is happening in our community, and I meet people who work passionately to help others live their best lives.”
One effort that keeps Mounts optimistic about prevention work is the Partnership’s Annual Youth Video Contest. Each year, the Partnership invites middle and high school students throughout the county to conceptualize and create a 30-second to 1-minute video about being drug-free. The prompt varies yearly, but winning students’ videos are aired as PSAs on WNDU for three months.
“Seeing the creative ways youth come up with to share how they live drug-free lives, watching the final results at the Annual Red Carpet Event and coming together with all the people who helped make the videos is always a joyful occasion. It provides me with hope for our future,” Mounts says of previous contests.
As the Partnership, AARC and community work to create a drug-free county, Mounts’ optimism and advocacy will persist. “While the work we do can be hard and sad on many days, I am always rejuvenated by seeing the efforts of others all around me in St. Joseph County.”
Red Ribbon Week is a national effort to keep kids drug-free. It takes place annually on Oct. 23 through Oct. 31. Locally, many schools and organizations participate in the event by encouraging children and teens to wear red, bringing educational activities into the school, and giving out prizes for positive behaviors.
Janet Whitfield-Hyduk, the Partnership's Drug-Free Communities Grant Coordinator, supported Red Ribbon Week efforts on Oct. 26 at St. Joseph High School in St. Joseph County.
Janet helped St. Joseph High School's student organization, Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD), bring awareness to the dangers of driving while high. Janet brought the Marijuana Fatal Vision goggles for an educational activity. The Marijuana Fatal Vision goggles simulate what it's like to drive while under the influence of marijuana. This experience helps students understand how pot can decrease their reaction times, make them unsafe drivers, and even result in fatal accidents.
The Partnership was also proud to be a part of the 32nd Annual Red Ribbon March and Rally in South Bend. This year's rally theme was "I Choose Me to Be Drug Free!" The rally honored two adults and two youth from the community who embody the spirit of Red Ribbon. These individuals demonstrate what it means to be drug free, advocate for others, and support the community in countless ways. The participants also had the pleasure of watching performances from local talent.
Red Ribbon Week is just one initiative the Partnership is proud to support. If your school or organization would like to get involved or would like to bring the Partnership to an upcoming drug prevention event, please contact us!
Since 2021, the Partnership for a Drug-Free St. Joseph County has hosted an Annual Youth Video Contest for St. Joseph County students. Middle and high school students in the county are invited to create and submit a 30-second video answering a specific prompt. In 2022, the prompt was: What Drug-Free Looks Like On Me. 20 videos were submitted for the 2022 contest, with 66 students working together to answer the prompt in video format. Two winners were selected and announced at the Red Carpet Celebration. The winning videos were featured for three months as commercials on WNDU.
Check out the winning videos below!
Photos from the Red Carpet Celebration