Coalitions in Action: Wilmington Coalition for Healthy Communities Revitalizes to Take Prevention to New Heights

 

In Wilmington, Illinois, collaboration is key to bringing prevention education to the schools and youth.

“We are most proud of our youth group,” said Deborah Tomey, Program Director and Coordinator at Wilmington Coalition for Healthy Communities. “In the schools, we have Community Action Teens in the local high school and Tobacco Free Teens in both the public and private middle school.”

The coalition hit a speed bump in year five of their Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant, but set forth a revitalization path to invigorate prevention in the community. The coalition restructured past relationships and forged new ones to form a solid foundation. Now, the coalition has approximately 25 youth on the Community Action Team, 28 in the public school’s Tobacco Free Teens and 16 in Tobacco Free Teens at the private Catholic school. The school system works alongside the coalition, who allows the coalition to come in during study hall and meet with the Community Action Team. This year, the coalition is focusing on growing youth involvement and youth members are showing peers that it is fun to be drug-free.

The coalition hosted a post-prom event in Wilmington for the high school students. The post-prom encourages students to attend a safe and drug-free event, instead of a prom after party, where alcohol is available. Local businesses provided support and one partner, ELION, donated $10,000 to put the event together. Approximately 60 parents volunteered and chaperoned at the high school.

“It was an amazing event and the car dealership donated a car to give away!” said Tomey. “Over half of the class was at the event. Parents and youth came together, collaborating in a way, and having a great time.”

The coalition has seen success in its revitalization, with all substance use in the area decreasing. Now, the Wilmington Coalition for Healthy Communities is focusing on the legalization of marijuana after a recent study found that there was no decrease in perceived risk. The community is small, with approximately 6,000 people, but the coalition aims above and beyond their immediate area. Only 45 – 50 miles from Chicago, Wilmington is rural and located on the river, often known as an island city because it is surrounded by water. While in previous years, Wilmington had a high risk of overdose per capita, the coalition can now say there has not been an overdose in the community in the past year.

“Its key to have the right people at the table, be patient and don’t give up,” said Tomey. “Be inclusive of all people in your community.”