Program Impact Data

 We would like to share with you the youth research that we have collected over the past 3 years in an academic study called:

Download by Clicking Below:
RT Youth Urban and Rural Survey Presentation

Misuse and overuse of illicit and non-illicit drugs amongst Wisconsin adolescents has increased. While significant progress has been made to address this issue within population dense regions of the state, many rural communities struggle to establish effective recovery support services. The purpose of this brief review is to summarize some of the major differences that likely contribute to teenage substance misuse and disorders within urban and rural communities. In addition, we will review urban rehabilitative approaches and discuss how these may, or may not, be effective in rural settings. Finally, we will highlight a novel approach of peer leadership through “RISE TOGETHER”, and how this approach may be uniquely positioned to address substance misuse and disorders amongst rural adolescents. In this report you will be able to…

  • Review changes in teenage drug use within Wisconsin
  • Discuss some of risk factors associated with urban vs rural teenage drug use
  • Discuss recovery methods that are currently being implemented within urban communities. Reflect on how these approaches may not be well suited for rural communities.
  • Summarize “RISE TOGETHER”; origins, approach, effectiveness.
  • Summarize rural adolescent substance misuse and disorders and effectiveness of peer support services

Previous Studies Below

Between October 2015 and May 2016, Rise Together surveyed nearly 2,000 Wisconsin middle and high school students, ages 10-18 that where were from over 50 different schools in 20 counties as part of their prevention education program.


Since 2014, Rise Together has surveyed nearly 7,000 students across 47 counties in Wisconsin, where they have found an overwhelming amount of young people that are affected by significant trauma, large amounts of stress, substance use disorders, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and other mental & behavioral health conditions.

(You can still view the full 2014-15 survey results HERE  from 4,047 respondent )

Research shows that Rise Together’s educational school-speaking program is doing much more than just helping students Rise up & overcome the challenges they face…..

  • 80% of students surveyed indicated that they are now less likely to use drugs & alcohol after seeing a Rise Together presentation (wow!!).
  • Nearly 100% of students stated that Rise Together’s presentation left a positive impact on them.
  • 92% would like to see the presentation or something from RT again.
  • 61% more likely to get involved in the community.
  • 82% more likely to follow their dreams & goals

These types of efforts come at a great time of need while our state, our country, faces an addiction epidemic. With results like…..

  • 35% of the students who answered have already tried drugs and alcohol by the age of 18
  • 91% used alcohol. 40% tobacco, 47% marijuana, and 18% of students have used prescription drugs.
  • 3% - 5% have already tried other illicit substance like ecstasy, heroin, and meth by the age of 18
  • Some started using at the age of 8 or younger while most started at 14-15 years old
  • Peer pressure & curiosity are the top reasons for use.
  • 23% use it to feel better or manage stress.
  • 76% of the students indicated that they would be healthier if they had less stress.
  • 26% of students are indicating that they do have urges and cravings to continue using which could become a substance abuse disorder over time.
  • Up to 60% think there is need for additional drug education in schools
  • 40% indicated that there is a need for more points of contact at schools, organizations, and employers with resources for prevention and early intervention.

It is crucial that our communities help to increase access to school-based prevention and education programs to address substance abuse in Wisconsin communities.

Rise Together is a recovery advocacy group that has a passion for prevention, education and community outreach; started by co-founders Anthony Alvarado and Douglas Darby who are both in long-term recovery, along with other core team members such as Nadine Machkovech; Rise Together’s project specialist.

RISE TOGETHER was founded in 2013 by nationally recognized advocates, Anthony Alvarado and Douglas Darby.  Now Rise Together, has one of the best school speaking programs in the nation. After partnering with 150 schools in the Midwest and educating over 120,000 people, their program has raised awareness about substance use, including alcohol and tobacco, and promoted a positive and constructive dialogue around getting help for mental and behavioral health conditions. Rise Together’s efforts have even been recognized by the White House office of the National Drug Control Policy. You can also visit our blog to see letters of support that we recently received from U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin State Representatives John Nygren & Amanda Stuck (HERE).

Key findings:

  • 1 of 2 of Wisconsin students who’ve tried risky substances continue using, putting them at risk of developing a substance use disorder
  • Students state that an increase in school prevention, intervention and education strategies as critical to combating the drug epidemic in Wisconsin
  • Most students use for the first time out of curiosity or because their friends use.
  • Students cite high stress and challenges with self-esteem as major detriments to health and well-being, making substance use and abuse is a multi-faceted issue.
  • Despite the health risk, many students don’t see use of risky substances as a significant problem.

Full 2015-16 student survey results available by clicking (HERE)


Statistics based on survey responses collected by Rise Together between October 2015 and May 2016 of 1,875 Wisconsin middle and high school students between the ages of 10 and 18. For the purpose of focusing exclusively on youth, some questions were omitted from this final report.

Note: 50% students identified as active users based on total of all responses exempting “I did not continue using” and “other” responses.

Policy recommendation:

  1. School-based SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment) - SBIRT is an evidence-based public health used to address selected health behaviors within a population. Screening quickly assesses the severity of substance use and identifies the appropriate level of treatment. Brief intervention focuses on increasing insight and awareness regarding substance use and motivation toward behavioral change. Referral to treatment provides those identified as needing more extensive treatment with access to specialty care.

Training for Wisconsin school pupil services staff in a targeted SBIRT protocol is available through a collaborative effort between the Wisconsin Safe and Healthy Schools (WISH) Center, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).

Special thanks to the Healthy Youth, Bright Futures coalition  for contributing to the creation of this report. Healthy Youth, Bright Futures is a Wisconsin coalition spearheaded by Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund working to keep young people on a healthy path through early screening & intervention for risky substance use. 

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