The Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition was named a “Coalition of Excellence” by CADCA.
The GOT OUTCOMES! award program gives national recognition to exemplary coalitions that have clearly documented their impact on population-level substance abuse outcomes. The coalition completed a rigorous two-phase application process that began last June and required them to share how they successfully engaged coalition and community members to develop and carry out a comprehensive plan to address youth substance use. Selections were based on the coalition’s ability to create changes in programs, policies and practices based on local data. The Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition was one of only two coalitions chosen by a panel of substance abuse prevention experts.
“We congratulate the Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition on their accomplishments and for being true leaders in the field of substance abuse prevention. Our CADCA GOT OUTCOMES! winners exemplify the excellent work that coalitions are doing around the country to prevent and reduce drug use in their communities,” said Gen. Arthur T. Dean, CADCA’s Chairman and CEO.
The coalition received the Coalition of the Year award for their success in addressing alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drug among middle and high school students in Hernando County.
Effective substance abuse prevention coalitions spend a significant amount of time gathering data to ensure that they select strategies that will make an impact. For example after identifying that some youth were able to purchase alcohol from local retailers in Hernando County, the coalition collaborated with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and the Brooksville Police Departments to begin carrying out quarterly checks to see if vendors were selling to minors. They saw a 5 percent increase in the number of retailers in compliance with the law between 2011 and 2014, and a 66 percent decrease in the number of high school students that said they drank at a restaurant, bar, or club between 2010 and 2014. The coalition carried out additional strategies to support these efforts such as educating the community and retailers about the laws and recognizing retailers that don’t sell to minors.
Collaborative work with key community members also resulted in positive changes to the environment as it relates to tobacco. For example, in 2015, all school campuses in Hernando County were declared to be tobacco free resulting in fewer youth being exposed to second-hand smoke. In 2010, data from the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey identified a 19 percent decrease in the number of high school students that had been exposed to second hand smoke and a 16 percent decrease for middle school students.
The coalition has dedicated a significant amount of their efforts to reduce prescription drug abuse and associated accidental deaths. One of their most successful strategies was the distribution of lockboxes for community members to store their medications and prevent them from getting into the hands of those who might misuse them. Their “Lock It Up” media campaign blanketed the community with specific outreach efforts to youth and adults and to date, they have distributed almost 700 lockboxes to families in Hernando County.
As a result of the coalition’s combined efforts, Hernando County has experienced numerous positive outcomes. For example, accidental deaths caused by prescription drug abuse have decreased from 168 in 2010 to 109 in 2013, and reported lifetime youth use of prescription pain relievers and depressants has declined significantly. In addition, between 2010 and 2014 there was a 33 percent reduction in reported past month smoking, and a 31 percent reduction in reported past month drinking among middle and high school youth.
Tresa Watson, Executive Director of the coalition, and several of her coalition youth and adult colleagues, received their prestigious award onstage during the Awards Luncheon at CADCA’s2016 National Leadership Forum last month.
Watson remarked that the Got Outcomes! application process was rigorous, but worth it, noting that past honorees contacted her to congratulate her, the coalition has been featured in several newspaper articles, and the award has opened more doors for the coalition’s agenda.
When she moved to small town Florida from big city Chicago several years ago, with two small children in tow, Watson saw a TV commercial stating that Hernando County was the worst in the state for underage drinking.
“It was transformative for me to make this move. I saw big problems in my small town and I knew I had to help make it a better place,” she said.
Watson had lived in Chicago for 40 years and worked in investment banking. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine herself being inspired by a commercial to join a coalition as a volunteer in 2003 and eventually running the coalition since 2010. But Watson is quick to point out that the coalition’s accomplishments, including being CADCA’s Coalitions of the Year, are not about her.
“I might be driving the car, but I definitely do not drive it alone,” she said.
And now, because of the Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition’s “Monumental Impact” in their community, fewer people are smoking, using drugs, and driving their car impaired.
For more information about the GOT OUTCOMES! Coalition of Excellence Award program, visit www.cadca.org/gotoutcomes.