Coalitions in Action—Building a Coalition During a Global Pandemic

“I am directly involved with a newly formed coalition (in existence for about a year) called Resilient Richland (RR) in Columbia, South Carolina,” said coalition member Kimberly Henry-Myers. “Resilient Richland is a movement within Richland County to reduce stigmas associated with childhood trauma by equipping individuals and organizations with the skills and information to build resiliency in our communities. My particular component that I contribute to the coalition as a core team member is substance use prevention education by way of presentations (via zoom meetings or Microsoft teams at this time) and resources for youth and parents.”

“Since the pandemic, RR has only held one coalition meeting in person and all others were via Zoom or GoTo meetings, due to safety measures,” said Henry-Myers. “We have implemented an evidence-based parenting program called triple P (Positive Parenting Program) in which parents are able to participate in meetings after work hours. The course provides parents simple and practical strategies to help them build strong healthy relationships in order to prevent future problems.  We just started this last month after months and months of planning. The curriculum is facilitated by staff that became certified to teach it.”    

“Our first meeting for Triple P “Parental Engagement” - the component which we oversee - went very well. Parents were engaged, asking questions to the substance use education facilitators, like myself, and giving feedback as well as sharing stories, both good and challenging. “

“As Mrs. Abrams and myself were monitoring the discussion, we noticed that the parents were happy to be part of the group and even gave praise and thank you’ s because flowers and a meal were sent to the participants. Things were going so well we went over the allotted time because there was so much engagement which is always a good thing.” 

“The advice I would give is to listen to what community members are saying so that you may serve them better instead of blindly assuming their needs. I’ve had several conversations with parents and community champions to hear their thoughts. This was one of many reasons why I decided to use my downtime during quarantine to start using my imagination and writing short stories. 

“I hope I am able to attend the Mid-Year Training Institute. Anytime I attend trainings I try to keep a pen and pad handy as well as my phone so I can record something because I like to go back and review things I’ve learned in order to share what was discussed. I hope to learn as much as I possibly can about any and everything that can help sustain our mission!”

To other coalitions that are just now starting their journey into substance use and misuse prevention, I would say to believe in what you do, remember why your work is important, always keep in mind who you serve and stay passionate for the work. Explore and share your ideas with your superiors no matter how outrageous it may sound or unattainable due to funding issues. Creativity and thinking outside of the box is a real “thing” for me and its worked in my law enforcement career and I am bringing the same energy here in my role as a substance use prevention specialist and now a substance use prevention education children’s books author.