February 13, 2020

Coalitions in Action – Steuben Prevention Coalition Uses CADCA’s Seven Strategies to Change Their Community

“The Steuben Prevention Coalition was formed in 1991,” said DFC Program Coordinator Colleen Banik. “In 2009 the coalition applied for and received the Mentee/Mentor Grant and then applied for and received the Drug Free Communities Grant in 2013. Our community is challenged by disproportionately high levels of youth usage of alcohol and marijuana and favorable youth and adult attitudes about its use. However, the coalition’s most significant obstacle is geographic distance. Our coalition is responsible for covering a rural agricultural county the size of Rhode Island with 13 individual school districts and a population of 97,361.”

“After receiving grant funding through the Community Foundation – Edith Saxton Grant, the coalition enlisted the help of our youth coalition leader Evan Czjakowski and the Dana Lyons Girls Group to identify needs in the village/town of Bath,” said Banik. “This group identified the need for “Drug Free Zone” signs in four parks/playgrounds in this specific area. These students arranged meetings with local officials to discuss their proposal and ultimately presented to the town’s Board of Trustees. During this time period and engagement with local officials, two additional parks/playgrounds were identified for a total of six.”

“This project allowed us to utilize CADCA’s Seven Strategies for Community Change by providing information and enhancing skills through equipping youth to present their message to local officials,” said Banik. “We also provided support for youth throughout the process and enhanced access/reduced barriers by making common areas safer for our community members. We changed consequences by decreasing the probability of substance use in these locations, changed the physical design of the environment by implementing permanent signage, and modified/changed policies by engaging local policy makers, zoning officials, law enforcement and village & town councils in outreach campaign and approval for sign placement.” 

“We are proud of the fact that we are a lesson in sustainability at work,” said Banik. “We did not receive our DFC funding for year six for 2018 – 2019, but through our coalition’s sustainability efforts with our community partners, we were able to secure funding with the county legislature and our DFC fiscal agent to continue our efforts until we could apply again in 2019 – 2020. We have since received our year six DFC funding, however the partnerships that provided funding to maintain the coalition specifically for the gap year have now provided funding to sustain an opioid and vaping specific committee through the coalition for 2020, as the DFC only covers our challenges with youth alcohol and marijuana use.”  

“My advice to other coalitions struggling with some of the same issues is to never give up,” said Banik. “Continue to engage your volunteer members, school districts, partnership agencies and most importantly, your youth.”

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