Yavapai College has taken a bold step toward expanding and diversifying its substance abuse recovery and prevention offerings when it tapped James Tobin, a certified substance abuse expert with 25 years of law enforcement experience, to direct the College’s Alcohol & Drug Prevention programs.

“We’re about prevention and harm-mitigation,” Tobin says, “and helping young people develop life and resiliency skills that don’t involve drugs or alcohol.”

Tobin offers a wide variety of diagnostic and therapeutic skills drawn from a career spent tracking, preventing and enforcing substance abuse and its related issues. He also brings extensive connections to local, regional and national substance abuse prevention programs. He looks to leverage these to help YC and the community as a whole.

“Two of my goals are to raise our profile and build capacity.” Community colleges, and the substance abuse issues they face, have grown more complicated in the last generation. In a world where the average YC student is 32 years old and holds a job, Tobin believes YC’s substance abuse awareness and prevention efforts should be integrated with local initiatives. “I would love for us to play a big role in what’s an already active effort in Yavapai County.”

Tobin and his four-student team began their outreach in January, with a campus training program called Peer to Peer. “It was a two-day training, with 35 students, that encourages people to become ‘active bystanders.’” He explains. “When you see a problem with friends or peers or co-workers – whatever it is, drugs or alcohol, maybe an abusive relationship – here’s how to safely make an active intervention.”

YC Alcohol & Drug Prevention will also work with local organizations like the Substance Abuse Coalitions of Arizona, the Yavapai County Suicide Prevention Task Force, and the Prescott Valley Fentanyl Work Group. They are currently working with Operation Engage, a new program from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. “The DEA has decided to change tactics on substance abuse and look at demand reduction and prevention, rather than just enforcement.” Tobin says. “Yavapai County is one of only eleven locations in the country with this program.”

As part of Operation Engage, the College will host a series of on-campus events, beginning with an April 21 Town Hall. “It’ll be a place where students can ask questions and give feedback on drug problems in our society.” He also hopes to continue a productive collaboration with MATFORCE (the Yavapai County Anti-Substance Abuse Coalition). MATFORCE’s Re-Entry Program, reaches out to parolees and people on probation who want to change their lives by pursuing a certificate or degree program. “Maybe you didn’t have all the advantages. Maybe you’ve made mistakes in your life. But now you have a chance to make a change and we’d like to help you do that.”

A Prescott native who grew up on the playing fields of Yavapai College, Tobin earned his police certification in 1996 in NARTA’s second graduating class. His distinguished career included ten years with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office; two years on the prevention side, working with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE); and service with the Prescott Valley Police and Yavapai College Campus Safety. Battling drug and alcohol-related crimes helped him understand the root cause as addiction itself, and he began to direct more of his efforts toward addiction mitigation and prevention.

“The way to solve problems like substance abuse is to work with people in a community making similar efforts,” Tobin says. “They may have different resources and be coming at it from different angles, but we’re all doing the same job. Let’s pool our resources, talent and energy. When we do, the public wins. That’s what we’re here for.” For further information on YC’s drug and alcohol abuse prevention and recovery resources, or assistance with a substance abuse problem, please call the Yavapai College Drug & Alcohol Prevention Program at: (928) 771-6183.