“Wood County, located in Northwestern Ohio, spans well over 600 square miles and is one of the largest counties in Ohio with a strong agricultural presence,” said coalition coordinator Milan Karna. “Serving nine public schools and a vocational school, the Wood County Prevention Coalition (WCPC), which formed in 2004, has been instrumental in significantly reducing youth substance use in the community. In 2014, the Wood County Prevention Coalition was awarded with the Drug Free Communities Support Program Grant.”
“Like many communities throughout the country, our coalition’s primary challenges come from youth alcohol and marijuana use,” said Karna. “One of the most valuable tools utilized by our coalition is the Wood County Youth Survey which is a population-based survey for students in grades 5 through 12 conducted every two years. The survey tabulates data on mental health, risky behaviors such as gambling, relationship violence, bullying, distracted driving and more. Since the coalition’s formation in 2004, 30-day prevalence of alcohol and marijuana use have been reduced by 46.3% and 41.6%, respectively, amongst 12th grade students in Wood County.”
“The WCPC is also involved in a vast number of other initiatives and groups within the community,” said Karna. “Coalition members and/or staff also work with the Wood County Opiate Task Force, the Wood County Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Bowling Green State University Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force, and the Wood County Gambling Task Force. Our coalition has recently taken the lead on several projects, including work on Medication Assisted-Treatment, increasing awareness on treatment options and reducing the stigma associated with addiction, and the Push4Prevention Project, which aimed to reduce binge drinking on campus.”
“Over the last five years, we have certainly seen some significant challenges emerge within our community, as they have all across the nation,” said Karna. “One relationship that has significantly increased our capacity to take on a variety of issues is with Bowling Green State University, and the internship program we have implemented over the course of the last few years. We often meet with students who may not know a lot about prevention but are interested in engaging with the community in a variety of ways. After their experience, many of the students have a new perspective on the importance of prevention and some have even moved into the field. Interns come from a variety of different majors, including communications and media production, criminal justice, human development and family studies, and sociology. Other significant on-campus collaborations have included working with several departments, including the Center for Community and Civic Engagement, education, history, public health, recreation and wellness and social work departments.
“We have achieved some remarkable outcomes by collaborating with all sectors of the community, while also integrating school and community-based prevention education and mental health and trauma-sensitive programs,” said WCPC director Kyle Clark. “This braided formula allowed us to achieve a broad sustainable effect on our outcomes.”
“Embrace the challenges your community may be facing,” said Karna. “Community-level change is possible when you leverage the strengths and resources available and apply what you have toward the issues at hand. The exciting part is when we are faced with challenges, it is extremely likely that another coalition has also faced the same issues. We are now able to access resources like the CADCA Community and seek information on what other coalitions have done. Here in Ohio, we have the Statewide Prevention Coalition Association, which serves as a network to call upon other prevention professionals. If we’ve exhausted other opportunities for technical assistance, other coalition leaders are always willing to help each other out. It is a great feeling that no matter what, someone has your back.”