“Keeping your coalition in the community conversation is an important part of coalition work”, says Debbie Moskovitz, Program Director of the Council Rock Coalition for Healthy Youth Council Rock Coalition for Healthy Youth (CRCHY) based in Newtown, Pennsylvania. “We want our community members to think of us when they have questions about drug and alcohol-related issues, when they are in need of an educational presentation, or if they are looking to volunteer or donate to a good cause”, said Moskovitz.
The coalition, which serves the Council Rock School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania has used SAMHSA’s “Talk They Hear You” underage drinking prevention campaign for parents and caregivers as one way to get on their community’s radar and stay there. The campaign can be used throughout the year, provides diverse and quality materials and it is a great way to involve families with younger children. The program offers many updated resources for coalitions including a downloadable and interactive phone application for parents that helps them practice having conversations about alcohol with their children, professional TV PSA’s, promotional tools, and even a musical soundtrack.
Each year, the coalition holds 3 to 4 community events for caregivers and their children. Events are conducted in partnership with local community groups that provide space and help to promote awareness of the event. “We go to where they are”, says Moskovitz, citing examples such as holding an event during a local Boy Scouts meeting and at an area church. At the event, caregivers and children are separated for an educational session. Following the session, they are brought back together and given private time to discuss what they learned. Finally, the “Family Agreement Form” is reviewed and signed.
CRCHY stresses the importance of tailoring the events to a coalition’s community. For example, adding your own local student survey data to the presentation and including a presenter that is well-respected by community members. By not being afraid to simply ask for support, the coalition found a champion in Dr. Van Aken, a local psychologist who has committed to presenting at every event. The coalition cites that name recognition can increase attendance and good presenters often bring their own following which allows you to reach people within a larger network.
The coalition has also collaborated with a local judge to create an important practice change. They created a toolkit comprised of SAMHSA Talk They Hear You materials and their own localized information. “When I met with the coalition to discuss materials from the Talk They Hear You campaign, I was happy to offer support. I distribute their toolkit to parents of youth who have been cited for alcohol or drug-related offenses. I have received positive feedback from parents telling me that they have a hard time initiating a conversation about alcohol use and that the tips in the toolkit give them the confidence they need to develop more open lines of communication.” said Judge Mick Petrucci. The judge also prints the toolkit materials at no cost to the coalition and has begun encouraging other judges in the area to do the same.
To maintain ongoing awareness of the campaign and the coalition, CRCHY has engaged in a variety of promotional efforts including advertising the campaign on shopping carts at the local grocery store. They also engaged youth in a fun project to create PSA’s with the messaging,” Talk We Hear You” They have promoted the campaign on their website, through Facebook posts, and press releases, and have sought in-kind support for print advertising. All materials include their logo and contact information. “I have been at this work for a long time and our coalition is entering our final year of DFC funding. We are fortunate to have these national campaigns to support our work because they are of professional quality and can be promoted for little to no cost to coalitions.”, says Moskovitz. Debbie offered up the following tips for new DFC support program grantees to maximize coalition capacity:
- Don’t be intimidated to ask for support
- Avoid reinventing the wheel
- Collaborate with local groups to expand the reach of your prevention messages