May 4, 2017

Coalitions in Action: Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change Creates LGBTQ Advisory Committee to Address Information Gap


After analysis, the Wisconsin-based coalition Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change (JM4C) discovered significantly higher substance use rates for students identifying as LGB (Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual) in their community. To address the gap, JM4C expanded prevention efforts to specifically work on reducing risk factors and enhancing protective factors within this demographic of middle school, high school and college students.

“We established a LGBTQ Advisory Committee to examine root causes and local conditions contributing to the high use rates,” said Sarah Johnson, Director of Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change. “Our data led the LGBTQ Advisory Committee to conclude that most Janesville service providers lack best practices to work with LGBTQ youth and parents lack knowledge and access to resources for support.”  

The diversity of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee enabled JM4C to reach a variety of sectors to provide professional training.

  • JM4C worked with Advisory Committee members representing police and domestic violence to develop DVDs to provide LGBTQ training for police officers.
  • Working with Advisory Committee members within the school district and community partners, JM4C planned and implemented trainings for school district staff on gender differences and practical steps to create an affirming and welcoming classrooms and schools.
  • Through surveys and small group discussions with youth, JM4C identified the need for parent resources. JM4C purchased educational booklets and developed informational brochures to be distributed at parent-teacher conferences, local community health fairs, and community events.
  • A parent support group was developed for parents of LGBTQ youth. A counselor and parent, both members of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee, monitor the online discussion group. The parent support group provides opportunities for discussion and sharing resources.
  • The local library provides space for JM4C to display LGBTQ books, booklets and brochures for family, friends and community members.
  • To increase the capacity of the coalition to address the needs of LGBTQ youth, JM4C sponsored adult attendance at the Wisconsin LGBTQ Summit and the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive Conference and youth attendance at the Wisconsin Youth Unity Summit and the GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) Conference.

The coalition actively engages and supports all the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) groups within the schools. GSA students assessed conditions within their school climate contributing to youth substance use and each group created their own action plan to address these issues. GSA groups developed informative posters to hang in hallways, public service announcements to air during advisory periods, and create substance-free activities outside of school for GSA members.

The coalition developed creative tools and resources in every sector to address the substance abuse issue in the LGBTQ community and continues to expand their work. “One of the local charter high school’s GSA plans and hosts monthly community discussions at the public library on gender and sexuality,” said Johnson. “For example, the first session consisted of a reading of “I Am Jazz” and discussion on the gender continuum using the ‘Gender Unicorn’ as a visual aid. Currently, JM4C is working with the moderators to develop a face to face support group meeting.”

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