CADCA’s Dose of Prevention Challenge, held each October in partnership with the Consumer Health Products Association (CHPA), encourages communities to raise awareness about over-the-counter (OTC) and cough medicine misuse during National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. This year, Frenchtown Community Coalition (FCC), located in western Montana, has been recognized as the challenge’s winner for its exemplary efforts in educating and empowering youth to make healthy choices through a series of innovative and impactful initiatives.
Throughout the month, the FCC held key events to inform the community on the dangers of misusing OTC and cough medicine misuse. Two town hall meetings were organized, where attendees received educational materials, prevention kits, and practical tools such as lock bags and boxes. Additionally, as a safe and alternative Halloween weekend activity, the FCC hosted a Frenchtown Fall Festival. This event boasted carnival games, costume contests, painting, trivia, and more, with prevention messaging and info incorporated throughout.
To reach as many members of their community as possible, the FCC also initiated a month-long social media trivia campaign on Instagram and Facebook, where daily questions related to prescription and OTC medicine misuse were posted. This interactive approach allowed community members to actively participate as they learned substance-specific prevention measures.
In an effort to inspire youth to consider their future goals while reflecting on how substance use could interfere with their ability to achieve them, the FCC held an essay contest for students grades 6-12. Generous community support enabled the FCC to reward eight winners with prizes, including a grand prize sponsored by an anonymous donor and unique metal sculptures crafted by a local artist. In total, the coalition received over 500 essays – a remarkable number from a student body population of 771.
“The essays were fantastic. I had the opportunity to read, honestly, every single one of them. Some of those kids really poured their hearts into their essays, which gave us a lot of information we needed to implement future programs and activities,” shared Reagan Mecham, FCC Coordinator. “Overall, it was just really inspiring to learn about each of their hopes and dreams and see them write out their intentions to stay away from substances.”
Another heartwarming activity the coalition held involved a letter-writing campaign, where parents and guardians shared their aspirations for their children and emphasized the potential negative impacts of substance misuse. During Red Ribbon week, each and every student was surprised with a personalized letter from their guardian, which created a profound and emotional experience for many.
“Afterwards, we received so many kind emails and letters from the parents themselves, thanking us for providing the opportunity to talk with their kids about substance use in that format. Since starting a conversation can sometimes be intimidating, many found it easier to write their thoughts down instead, and as a bonus, their kids are now able to keep those sentiments with them forever,” said Reagan.
“We also had teachers and coaches write letters to the students who didn’t receive a submission from their guardian, so that no one was left out. The week leading up, the teachers only had a few days to write those final letters. They took time out of their days and were up late at night to write to finish them all and ensure that every student would receive one, and I was so appreciative of that.”
The Frenchtown Community Coalition’s efforts throughout the Dose of Prevention Challenge exemplifies the power of community engagement and creativity in addressing substance misuse issues. The outcomes of the FCC’s efforts were substantial, reaching over 4,800 individuals through various activities. Positive evaluations from town hall attendees, successful engagement during Red Ribbon Week, and the overwhelming response to the Fall Carnival underscored the effectiveness of their multifaceted approach.
“There were so many rewarding aspects of participating in the Dose of Prevention Challenge. Many of the activities we held, we might not have otherwise done without this push to do so. The parent letters, especially, was something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but it had always just seemed like too large of an undertaking. In the end, I think it was one of my favorite things we’ve ever done,” said Reagan.
“My advice for anyone considering participating in next year’s Dose of Prevention Challenge, is just to do it and have fun with it. Let your youth be creative. If there’s something in the back of your mind that you’ve been too afraid to do, just do it. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out – and that’s okay. But if it does work out, it could be one of the highlights of your efforts that you will keep with your forever.”