CADCA’s 21st Annual National Leadership Forum Moves Coalitions
If one word could describe CADCA's National Leadership Forum, which concluded Feb. 10th in the Washington D.C. area, it would be "moving." From Monday's SAMHSA Community Prevention Day to Wednesday's Capitol Hill Day, to the plenaries and federal town hall meetings and, of course, the 100 training workshops for adults and youth alike, nearly 2800 community leaders representing CADCA's coalitions around the world were, indeed, moved.
Throughout the week, the theme of “Coalitions Moving Forward, Mapping the Future” was integrated as attendees addressed their peers in workshops and as officials responded thoughtfully to audience questions at the mic and via Twitter. There were so many thoughtful questions, in fact, that CADCA promises to find answers and post on our website very soon!
General Arthur T. Dean, CADCA's Chairman and CEO, reminded participants about all that coalitions have accomplished since the Forum began 21 years ago—and where the movement is headed.
“We are ready to map the future. We are shaping and molding the future one day at a time,” he told the packed ballroom during Tuesday’s opening plenary.
Substance abuse prevention and treatment specialists from throughout the country and the world were engaged and revved up as keynote speaker Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske thanked coalitions for their on-the-ground work in reducing substance abuse. “Because of the work you do, fewer young people are using and abusing drugs,” he said.
He also stressed President Obama’s position on marijuana, noting that the President has been clear about his strong opposition to marijuana legalization, and urged attendees not be fooled into thinking that most of the country wants to legalize marijuana. “Media reports would lead you to believe that marijuana legalization is sweeping the nation. Don’t believe everything you see in the media,” Director Kerlikowske told the audience. “The people of California saw through the false promises.”
At the federal town hall meetings, the Capitol Hill Day plenary, and throughout the Forum, coalition effectiveness was acknowledged, with many of the national federal leaders telling the coalitions how much they rely on the expertise they bring from communities about alcohol and marijuana abuse and, especially, about emerging “drugs” like bath salts.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Howard Koh, like most of the federal leaders participating in the Forum, said the movement should continue on a public health approach, rather than just a criminal justice one. “It’s your work on the ground that’s touching lives and healing souls,” Dr. Koh said.
Coalition leaders were drawn to the Forum for many reasons. Some, like April Woodard, attended before, but this year, she wanted to form a new collaboration. In Detroit, the average age of first-time marijuana use is 13, so April Woodard and the Drug Free Communities Coalition’s youth group developed a marijuana documentary as part of a communitywide campaign that the coalition developed. They also worked with their city council and retailers to stop displaying and selling drug paraphernalia.
For Beth Mehau, volunteer executive director of Hawaii’s newest coalition, The Pantry, the Forum helped her and her colleagues develop a roadmap for success to address the casual attitudes about drug use their community faces and their crippling methamphetamine epidemic. The coalition brought two youth, one of whose trip was funded by an anonymous donor, to meet with their congress people and enjoyed the Forum’s Youth Summit and National Youth Leadership Initiative.
“Armed with what we learned at CADCA, we spent the entire 10-hour plane ride home strategizing and walked away with a framework on how we are going to address our prevention challenges ahead and our girls arrived home with a sense of hope that they could make a significant impact on our community,” Mehau said.
One motivation for approximately 225 people representing 112 coalitions to attend the Forum was participating in CADCA’s National Coalition Academy graduation.
Getting Their Voices Heard
Capitol Hill Day was particularly well attended, kicking off with a Capitol Hill Plenary session, where participants heard from several key lawmakers and champions for the substance abuse field, including Senator Rob Portman (R-OH); Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL); Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA); Congresswoman Lucille Roybal Allard (D-CA); Megan O’Donnell, Legislative Assistant for Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY); and Sue Thau, CADCA’s Public Policy Consultant.
Sen. Portman inspired coalitions, directing them to tell their lawmakers that prevention works and coalitions can make a difference. “Investments in prevention can pay huge dividends. You are the best messengers to get that across,” he told coalitions.
Ohio’s Sen. Portman actually founded a coalition when he was a Congressman which reduced drug use in Cincinnati by 30 percent.
Former coalition leader Rep. Bass urged the audience to tell their representatives and senators “how your coalition has had an impact and how important it is to sustain that work.”
Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, who introduced the Sober Truth on Preventing (STOP) Underage Drinking Act five years ago, asked coalitions to persuade her colleagues on the Hill to reauthorize the STOP Act.
“If the STOP Act is not reauthorized this year, the positive results of our efforts could be lost, while underage drinking remains the drug of choice among our youth,” she noted.
CADCA’s Sue Thau also had some inspiring words for the audience.
“You are the infrastructure of prevention in America,” Thau said. “Communities that are organized have lower drug use rates.”
She urged the group to go to Capitol Hill and tell their senators and congress people that prevention matters and to keep funding the field. More than 160 congressional appointments were booked by CADCA’s policy team.
“We cannot be cut. We matter! We make a difference. We have outcomes,” Thau said.
Later during a rally on Capitol Hill, several hundred coalition leaders called for increased funding for substance abuse prevention and urged Congress to continue to fund the Drug Free Communities (DFC) Program, as well as other drug prevention, treatment and research programs, at the highest levels possible. Speaking at the rally were CADCA’s Gen. Arthur T. Dean, Cindy Hayford, Director of the Deerfield Valley Community Partnership in Wilmington, Vt., and Alex Cook, a youth leader with the Lopez Island Prevention Coalition in Washington state who won CADCA’s 2011 Outstanding Youth award.
Laura Crain from the Community Partnership Coalition in Woodstock, Ill., was among the 160 coalitions that met and with their congressmen and senators. Her delegation included six high school youth and their town’s mayor, Dr. Brian Sager.
“We were greeted with such a positive response from everyone we met,” said 16-year-old coalition member Grant Stec.
Hearing from Researchers and Experts
The latest research in the field was presented in a variety of ways at the Forum.
Researcher and Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, was a panelist at a federal town hall meeting about the “Future of Evidence-based Practices and Coalitions.” The town hall explored proven strategies and programs to prevent and reduce substance use and abuse disorders. She told coalitions that they “inform the research agenda.”
The meeting also featured distinguished panelists Kenneth Warren, Ph.D., Acting Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and Fran Harding, Director, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Both echoed the sentiment that purely educational drug programs just don’t work and that coalitions do.
The town hall meeting was moderated by Elizabeth Cohen, CNN senior medical correspondent, who later signed copies of her new book, The Empowered Patient, How to Get the Right Diagnosis, Buy the Cheapest Drugs, Beat Your Insurance Company, and Get the Best Medical Care Every Time.
Moderated by Jim Vance, NBC News4 anchor, the second town hall meeting discussed the future of health and safety. Federal leaders Michele M. Leonhart, Administrator, DEA; Pamela S. Hyde, Administrator, SAMHSA; Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, ED; and Dennis Greenhouse, Director, Community Capacity Development Office, Office of Justice Programs, DOJ, answered coalition leaders’ questions and informed the audience of the impact prevention has on health and public safety: “We are the biggest cartel and we can defeat drug use in this country,” Leonhart told the group in a standing ovation.
Dr. Harold Urschel, who presented a workshop on his book, “Healing the Addicted Brain,” appeared on local television discussing his approach to treatment and his appearance at the Forum.
CADCA also gave several awards during its National Leadership Awards luncheon including three GotOutcomes! awards to coalitions that exemplified strategies for community-level outcomes.
Coalition of the Year winner the Van Buren SAFE Coalition in Keosauqua, Iowa, brought two youth to accept their award. Through compliance checks, changing school and community policies, and increasing awareness, the coalition was able to reduce tobacco and alcohol use among 11th graders in their city.
Coalition coordinator and its DFC project director, Heidi Bainbridge, said, “A highlight of attending the Forum was getting to meet the Surgeon General. We have really affected change in our community last year and are continuing our mission this year, especially with alcohol use.”
CADCA has news release templates for coalitions who attended the Forum to use.
News Release Template About Attending CADCA's Forum
News Release Template About Participating in the National Youth Leadership Initiative
To view and upload your coalitions’ Forum pictures and videos, see our Flickr and Facebook pages.