June 13, 2019

Coalitions in Action— Partnership for Change Implements Population-based Strategies to Serve Community


Partnership for Change (PFC) serves nine suburban cities in northwest Hennepin County, within the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota. The coalition serves three school districts including Brooklyn Center, Osseo and Robbinsdale. The coalition serves 339,479 people, about 6.1% of Minnesota’s total population. 

The coalition began in response to concerning data about trauma patients from North Memorial Health Hospital. In 2007, the hospital’s injury prevention coordinator noticed a trend in the number of youth patients being seen at the hospital with alcohol-related injuries. Realizing that youth substance use was a community issue and that no one entity could successfully tackle the problem alone, a series of town hall meetings were held to discuss the issue. The outcome of the meetings was the creation of Partnership for Change. The coalition received the Drug Free Communities support program grant in 2008 and again in 2014. From 2012 to 2015, Partnership for Change also received a Strategic Prevention Framework-State Incentive Grant (SPF-SIG) from the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

“The region that we serve is very large, which adds to the difficulty of reaching community members to prevent substance misuse,” said the coalition’s coordinator Tara Helm. “We have focused our coalition goals on policy changes that have a greater impact on the overall population to overcome this challenge.”

“Our coalition is proud of our Place of Last Drink (POLD) strategy to reduce over-service of alcohol,” said Helm. “POLD is an initiative to efficiently identify patterns of alcohol use and allows participating law enforcement departments to concentrate education and enforcement efforts towards areas of concern.  The online system allows law enforcement to identify the location where a person last consumed alcohol when they were involved in an alcohol-related incident, such as driving under the influence (DUI), assault or other offense. Law enforcement officers have access to real-time data analytics about their department and the retailers in their jurisdiction. This award-winning initiative has been recognized nationally as an innovative policy because of the development of an online data collection system that shares information between participating law enforcement departments and collects last drink information at the time of the incident rather than later in the adjudication process.”

“The goal of the POLD strategy is to reduce high-risk and binge drinking among youth and adults by identifying and addressing locations where they consumed alcohol. Due to existing laws against over-service of alcohol as well as regulatory authority, POLD focuses on addressing serving practices at licensed retail establishments but can also be used to identify problem house party locations or other community issues. In addition to tracking on-sale retailers as an individual’s place of last drink, other drinking locations, such as private residences, parks, and community events, are also collected to identify patterns. By identifying problem trends, law enforcement has been able to direct patrols and work with retailers to address serving practices and eventually reduce alcohol-related incidents in the community.”

“From the beginning, Partnership for Change has focused on implementing population-based strategies that would be sustainable beyond the duration of the grant,” said Helm. “We employ data-driven, evidence-based strategies that have the largest population impact. Due to the large region that our coalition serves, changing the environment and modifying policies are more effective interventions.

We have focused on encouraging our cities to adopt a social host ordinance. Seven of the nine cities served by Partnership for Change have adopted social host ordinances. In 2015, the city of Osseo expanded its ordinance to include marijuana or other controlled substances, in addition to alcohol. Law enforcement and city administrators in our region value these ordinances as a deterrent to prevent underage consumption. This summer, our coalition has prepared a utility bill insert, which will be mailed to community members in the city of Osseo to remind them about the consequences of providing substances to minors with a message from the police chief.” 

“Partnership for Change has also focused on preventing medicine misuse. We provide networking and education sessions about proper prescribing methods for providers. We have also increased access to medicine disposal boxes by partnering with local law enforcement agencies to install one in the lobby of their department. We want community members to report that it is easy and convenient to dispose of unwanted medications and decrease youth access to prescription drugs.”

“Our advice to other substance misuse prevention coalitions looking to implement population-based strategies is to get law enforcement at your table and inform them about the power of prevention,” said Helm. “Developing relationships with law enforcement has been integral in implementing sustainable policy changes in our communities. Building capacity with law enforcement and showing them the importance of investing in prevention is the key to effective substance misuse prevention efforts.”

“In addition, we work hard to stay focused on our mission. We get many invitations to be involved in important work on issues other than substance misuse prevention. While we will look for opportunities to collaborate with other public health topics, we will be strategic about how we spend our resources to ensure that our focus is substance misuse prevention.”

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