The Brooks County Drug-Free Communities (BCDFC) coalition grouped the attendees of a Drug-Free Communities summit together by sector and each sector participated in the “Why, But Why Here” – a community mapping exercise and developed a logic model based on their sector’s experiences and knowledge. The group discussions, maps, and logic models produced by these groups have aided in community networking and the development of coalition strategy.
“At the summit, we introduced a Community Assessment Survey. The purpose of the survey is to gather local-level data from every sector and socio-economic group present in Brooks County,” said Erin Blanton, Drug-Free Communities Project Coordinator. “The data gathered will be used to enhance and strengthen our coalition’s logic model. This community-wide survey has been presented throughout the community to various groups, including jail inmates, law enforcement, social workers, healthcare workers, community members and students in grades 6th – 12th at Brooks County Middle School, Brooks County High School, and the Delta Innovative School. We will conclude the survey process soon and estimate that we will have nearly 1,300 surveys to process.”
The coalition is located in the city of Quitman in Brooks County, Georgia and serves a population of 15,685. The county borders the Georgia/Florida state line on U.S. Highway 84 and is known for as a center for agriculture, the annual Skillet Festival, and the Guinness World Record for the most people tossing skillets simultaneously.
The BCDFC coalition conducted a community-wide Drug-Free Communities summit that included all twelve sectors and currently are conducting a county-wide Community Assessment Survey to enhance and add more relevant and local data to aid in future planning and to provide evidence for the need for policy changes. The DFC Summit was held in July of this year, with over 40 community leaders/partners in attendance. The all-day information and planning session was an opportunity to increase support and partnership, increase understanding about youth substance misuse in the community, and to educate community leaders about environmental/policy change strategies.
Since the launch of BCDFC, and especially since the DFC Summit, the coalition has added several key partners to their roster, including the Brooks County Sheriff’s department. The Sheriff’s Department was not previously represented at coalition meetings or events. After attending the CADCA National Coalition Academy, the coalition approached the Chief Deputy to discuss plans for the DFC Summit.
“We presented our plan and explained the DFC grant and, as a result, the department embraced our plans and offered volunteers to help wherever necessary. They volunteered to present information about current drug trends at the Summit,” said Blanton. “The knowledge and skills provided by the Sheriff’s Department to staff and coalition members have allowed us to identify risk factors for youth substance misuse in the community.”
The coalition utilized the information they presented as a basis for other coalition training. For example, at the September coalition meeting, they focused on environmental and policy changes and how these changes could impact the community.
“Our focus of the DFC Summit was to listen and provide detailed information about environmental/policy change strategies that will affect the entire community. The more we discuss environmental/policy change strategies, the more our coalition members have come to understand and recognize how small changes can create the largest impact,” said Blanton. “While every coalition and community is different, our advice to other coalitions conducting community-wide information sessions and community-wide surveys is to be focused and deliberate. As a recipient of the Drug-Free Communities grant, we are lucky to have the advantage of time. We want to be deliberate in our actions and take time to really listen to all members of the community.”