San Antonio Fighting Back, Inc. owes its existence to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) which began an experiment back in the early 1990’s. Faced with a decade of substance abuse that had reached an all-time high, the Foundation, known as the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, set out to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse: tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.
To achieve that goal, RWJF announced it was accepting proposals for a new program called the Fighting Back initiative. The entities awarded grants would take a grass-roots approach to reducing the demand for alcohol and illegal substances. The key component to this project was that the grantee could tailor the program to suit community needs.
In 1989, fed up with the rise of crime and violence in their community, a group of San Antonio citizens came together to iron out a plan of action. The groups understood that if they reduced crime and violence, they would eventually cut to the root of the problem, substance abuse. Having created short and long term plans, the citizens group joined forces with the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County and submitted a proposal to RWJF. The following year, the proposal was accepted and the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County added a new department to its agency. San Antonio Fighting Back(SAFB) of United Way was born.
SAFB became one of 14 Fighting Back sites across the country and is the only such program in Texas. Today there are only two sites left in the country, which SAFB is one. Each site was tasked with reducing the demand for alcohol and illegal substances. However, sites traditionally would not provide direct services to the community. Rather, FB sites would act as the bridge between community people and local, state and federal agencies, and law enforcement entities to create longstanding systemic changes. Unlike its counterparts, SAFB conducted its work within a specific target zone: a 25-mile area on the East and Southeast sectors of the city.
Over the years, SAFB has conducted a variety of programs designed to impact its four goals of increasing treatment accessibility, reducing drug-related crime, preventing youth and adult substance abuse and preventing HIV/AIDS infection. Today those programs include on-going efforts from Operation Weed & Seed, Value-Based Violence Prevention Initiative, Drug Prevention Programs, Ex-Offender Transition Services, and most recently; Project HOPE and Strengthening Youth to Succeed.
For a more in-depth historical overview please read the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) summary report on Support From “San Antonio Fighting Back” to Community Coalitions Increases Substance Abuse Treatment and Reduces Crime.