Coalitions in Action – Addiction Prevention Coalition Empowers Youth Prevention Efforts During COVID-19

 

“The Addiction Prevention Coalition (APC) has been serving the greater Birmingham community for over a decade with a vision to prevent addiction and inspire people to live with hope, resilience and purpose,” said the coalition’s Student Program Specialist Raven Johnson. “APC works with individuals in the education system, health care workers, parents with addicted loved ones, students, at-risk youth and the recovery community. We serve individuals and families that are impacted by addiction, whether it be by raising awareness in communities, providing education to at risk youth and adults, connecting those who are currently struggling to services and resources or providing support.”

“We have been overwhelmed with training opportunities now that many conferences and workshops are virtual,” said Johnson. “Our staff are constantly sharing information for workforce development engagement opportunities that we would not have been able to attend if they weren’t virtual. We are extremely grateful for this, but it has been challenging to not become overloaded with information and to systematically identify how to apply these new strategies to our coalition’s work.”

“We have been hosting virtual meetings with our Youth Advisory Council, where students that are part of their schools’ prevention clubs learn leadership skills and plan ways to educate their peers on substance misuse and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Johnson. “These students have created an Instagram account to help recruit their peers to join their prevention clubs in the fall.” 

“Students on the Youth Advisory Council were also able to participate in the Virtual Youth to Youth Conference,” said Johnson. “Normally, we would take these students to Ohio for the conference but this year we improvised and attended virtually. We were also able to host an in-person, socially distanced leadership training at the beginning of August. At this training, students learned how to facilitate healthy discussions on stigmatized topics with their peers and participated in a mental health panel with community members. The Youth Advisory Council will also be participating in a virtual Narcan training for Overdose Awareness Day and placing suicide prevention messages around their community in the form of yard signs for Suicide Prevention Week.” 

“On August 13th, our DFC coalition hosted a Backpack Give Away at two locations,” said Johnson. “Community members were able to stay in their cars while volunteers handed out backpacks full of school supplies and a ‘Prevention Packet.’ It was a positive way for those in the community to come together and make a positive impact during difficult times.”

“Our organization is also hosting webinars every other week on Zoom that cover topics on prevention, recovery stories and local resource providers,” said Johnson. “We promote these webinars on our Facebook page and website where participants are able to sign up for free.”

“We are in the process of creating a Parent Toolbox on our website that contains information to help parents and caregivers start a conversation and send a message to their children about substance misuse,” said Johnson. “Along with this website update, we have created a 30-second video that encourages parents to talk to their children about substance misuse. This video will be used in our upcoming Protect Our Youth Digital Media Campaign that targets parents and caregivers in our community.”

“Two of our staff members attended a virtual training to become certified Teen Mental Health First Aid Instructors,” said Johnson. “They are now in the process of coordinating this program virtually in DFC schools for this year. We are super excited to add this to our student initiatives in our community.” 

“Our Youth Advisory Council has been extremely proactive in response to the COVD-19 pandemic,” said Johnson. “These students have been willing to meet their peers where they are and have quickly adapted to activities and events going virtual. We have been able to increase the number of students consistently involved in our Youth Advisory Council by allowing students to attend meetings virtually. Previously, there have been students that were interested in joining but for multiple reasons could not attend. Now we have students attending meetings that have been saying they have wanted to join for months.”

“Communicating with other organizations and staying informed on current local prevention efforts has given us the opportunity to collaborate with others,” said Johnson. “Having these conversations has helped us host a variety of educational webinars with special guests from within our community.”

“To other coalitions working on prevention initiatives during this unique time, I would advise you to meet the communities that you are working with where they are,” said Johnson. “Look within the community for resources and assets. We are also planning to attend CADCA’s 2021 National Leadership Forum, and we look forward to hearing about prevention strategies that address current drug trends among our youth.”