Tell me about the communities that your coalition serves – their population and unique features. When was the coalition formed?
Prevention Action Alliance was formed in 1987 as the Ohio Association of Parents for Drug Free Youth. Ohio was losing a generation of children to drugs, and a group of parents worked together to protect Ohio’s children from drug addiction by empowering parents and raising awareness about the dangers of misusing drugs and alcohol. “Over time, the Prevention Action Alliance has added community coalitions, colleges, young people, and those grieving the loss of a loved one into our network,” said Executive Director Marcie Seidel. “Together, our coalition of coalitions educates communities and stakeholders about prevention, empowers parents and young people to talk about substance misuse and mental health wellness, and advocates for the use of effective, evidence-based environmental prevention strategies.”
What unique issues is your coalition facing?
“Ohio has been called the epicenter of the opiate epidemic, and we have to continue working to prevent the misuse of opiates,” said Seidel. “Another challenge we face is that medical marijuana will be available to Ohioans this year. Legalizing marijuana for medicinal use makes it seem harmless and even beneficial even though we know that it has a number of medical and social issues and unknowns attached to it. Lastly, because so many legislators and other stakeholders are focused on opiates and marijuana, no one is paying attention to alcohol, which is the number one drug of choice for young people and the number one killer of all drugs, or to e-cigarettes, which are reversing the hard work of curtailing teenage tobacco use.”
What activity or program is your coalition most proud of and / or what activity would you like us to spotlight?
The Ohio Youth-Led Prevention Network (OYLPN) unites more than 120 youth-led groups across the state of Ohio to promote mental health wellness and prevent substance misuse. Through peer-to-peer education, environmental strategies, and legislative advocacy, OYLPN members advocate for the majority of teens who make healthy choices and don’t misuse drugs and alcohol.
What advice would you give to other coalitions that may be addressing some of the same issues?
“Be an advocate for your state’s prevention needs,” said Seidel. “Educate legislators about the issues that affect your communities and empower people to be active participants in solutions to the problems your community faces.”
Feel free to add anything else that you think is important for other coalitions to know about your progress, journey etc.
“When we think about the changes this organization has gone through over the last 31 years, we wonder what changes are going to come,” said Seidel. “Our agency was formed in reaction to the cocaine epidemic, and today we watch lawmakers react to the opiate epidemic as well as a resurgence of methamphetamine use in Ohio. I hope that we’ll be proactive in addressing the future of prevention, highlighting the need for upstream work that reduces risk factors, bolsters protective factors and reduces the incidence of addiction, so that we can prevent the next epidemic, whatever drug it may be.”