Be The Change – Jim Bettencourt

America's Choice - America's Shame: The Reality of America's War on Drugs: Your Children, Your Family, Your Nation

When you first meet Jim Bettencourt, he immediately puts you at ease with a friendly comment and a little laughter. However, underneath that easygoing exterior is someone who has gone through deep pain and heartbreak due to the near-fatal drug overdose of his 15-year-old son, events that changed the course of Jim’s life. He wrote about his son’s story, and his beliefs on how to best fight drugs in our society, in his book  America’s Choice – America’s Shame: The Reality of America’s War on  Drugs: Your Children, Your Family, Your Nation.

Due to limited resources for drug counseling and prevention education, Jim says parents and their children often have nowhere to turn and many “fall between the cracks.” Ten years ago, when he found himself in the same situation while trying to locate resources to help his son, Jim founded Not In Our Town – Glenn County, a non-profit educational substance abuse prevention coalition based in Willows. Jim believes the reality of widespread substance abuse in our society needs to be communicated to our youth, and the organization has helped educate hundreds of young people and families in Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties about drug addiction and prevention.

Jim was born and raised on an 80-acre dairy ranch in Willows, which his parents bought 65 years ago – his mother still lives on the ranch. “I strongly feel the early influences experienced while growing up on the ranch strengthened and sustained my resolve to help others,” he says. Jim has three children, now in their 20s, and spent many hours as a volunteer coach for their sports teams during their youth.

Over the years, Jim has provided substance abuse prevention presentations at schools in Glenn, Butte and Tehama Counties, and at California State University, Chico. He’s provided information at back to school nights and health fairs, and has sponsored public service announcements in local media.

For five years Not In Our Town ran a successful “Drug Store” program for 8th grade students, modeled after a Drug Enforcement Agency program. Using local law enforcement, medical, judicial and funeral services, students were taken on the pathway of drug addiction, from a first experimentation with methamphetamine to addiction, arrest, court hearing, relapse, hospitalization, and finally, death.

In 2010 Jim helped organize a Forum on Prescription Drug Abuse at CSU, Chico, attended by more than 120 professionals from 12 different counties. “Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic according to the CDC report to the US Senate,” Jim says. He adds, “Every eight and a half months a Chico State student dies from acute poisoning caused by polypharmy – simply stated, from multiple prescription drugs.”

For parents looking for the best advice on how to prevent their children from using drugs, Jim advises that communicating with your children about substance abuse is of utmost importance, as is always knowing who your children are associating with, and modeling drug-free behavior at home. “When the innocence of a child is lost, you can’t get it back,” he says. He adds, “If society focused on drug prevention, the need for reactive drug intervention would be reduced dramatically.”

A few years ago, after Jim’s presentation in Teresa Lamb’s Centennial High School class in Corning, a student wrote to the editor of the Corning Observer: “I just wish that I had learned this when I was in junior high or elementary school. Teachers and parents think their kids are too young for these conversations…but the only thing that they are doing is prohibiting their kids from learning the effects of the chemical abuse.” Teresa was greatly impressed with the impact Jim’s presentations had on her students, stating, “True life experiences are what capture their attention.” Some of her students also read Jim’s book and were greatly affected by it: “they took it to heart.”

Another Centennial High School student ended her letter to the editor in this way: “Thank you Jim Bettencourt. We, the kids of Centennial High School, thank you. We will consider your words. Your presentation will not be forgotten.”

To contact Jim, call (530) 330-3139. To find out more about Not In Our Town – Glenn County or about drug abuse, visit or

Darla Greb Mazariegos
About Darla Mazariegos

Writer Darla Greb Mazariegos is a mother of three and part of the North State Parent staff.


  1. Heather Russell says:

    Well done, Darla. Great information for all parents! You know my struggles and I wish I had someone with Jim’s passion and determination in my corner.

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