GUIDE was formed in 1986 as a joint effort between the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and the Gwinnett County Board of Education. They wanted to have a comprehensive, coordinated and proactive approach to reducing and preventing substance use and abuse. A steering committee of prominent Gwinnett leaders developed a preliminary plan and secured funding to hire an Executive Director. Gwinnett County agreed to provide in-kind office space, telephone services and utilities.
Ari Russell was hired as the Executive Director in 1986. Over the years, the scope of the agency increased, as did the staff. In 1989, the first Georgia Teen Institute was conducted for middle schools in Gwinnett. This program went statewide in 1991, with programs for high school and middle school youth action teams. GUIDE soon became a recognized leader in the substance abuse prevention field in Georgia. The Gwinnett Mobilizing for Change in ATOD initiative evolved in 2004 to provide an umbrella approach for strategies to achieve community level change in alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues. The Gwinnett Alcohol Prevention Program began in 2011, under the GMCA umbrella. This initiative, funded by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), focuses on reducing underage and binge drinking among 9 to 20 year-olds in four communities in South Gwinnett.
GUIDE became an active partner with the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services when it began in 1991. Over the years, GUIDE has collaborated with the coalition on many initiatives including Smoke Free Gwinnett, reducing inhalant use and underage drinking, and addressing the issues associated with marijuana use and prescription drug misuse. GUIDE has a standing seat on the coalition’s Board of Directors.
Staff members are recognized as experts in the fields of prevention and positive youth development. They are often called upon to serve on work groups and coalitions and to provide professional development and youth leadership training. Today, GUIDE continues to serve Gwinnett County first and foremost, but also provides services within the metro-Atlanta region and statewide.