Coalitions in Action—Community – The Anti-Drug Coalition – Talk, Monitor, Secure Campaign

“It began with a brainstorm with our neighboring coalitions about doing a Lock it Up Campaign together,” began Catherine Spencer, Program Coordinator for the Community, the Anti-Drug Coalition (CTAD). “We are located just north of the city of Chicago, and one nice thing here is that there are a lot of DFCs in our area, so we work closely together.”

“We all decided to participate in this campaign together, but we knew our community felt that in the past, the idea of ‘locking it up’ came off as too harsh. So, we knew we couldn’t do ‘lock it up,’ but we still wanted to participate and do something. That’s how we came up with our own campaign called, ‘Talk, Monitor, Secure.’ It’s slightly softer sounding, and it was our way of meeting our community where they’re at.”

“The message was, talk to teens about alcohol’s impact on developing brains and healthy ways to cope with stress and boredom. We also mentioned to not be afraid to ask if something is missing, and to secure alcohol, medication and marijuana in a locked cabinet to reduce temptation. This campaign also went out during the height of the pandemic, and Illinois was pretty shut down. We were hearing that that alcohol sales were rising, and kids were at home most of the time. Also, something unique in Illinois is, in January of 2020, marijuana became legal for adult use. “

“With all of that in mind, it really did make sense to start this campaign at that time. It’s always good to remind guardians to lock up medications and alcohol, but we really felt that marijuana was something new that they might not have even thought about locking up.”

“We started with partnering with alcohol retailers and sending flyers in the mail for them to hang up. They were distributed to 20 alcohol retailers in our community in Summer of 2020, so it was great that we got it out, but since it was during the height of the pandemic, we weren’t able to go and confirm how many stores had put it up. Then we thought, well, we want to do more.”

“At that time, the kids weren’t going into schools and parents were getting overwhelmed with emails and electronic communication, so we didn’t want to contribute to the overload. You also couldn’t really go shopping at that time, but we were hearing more and more that one thing you could do is order takeout from restaurants. That’s when we got the idea to make something that could be attached to a takeout bag and partner with restaurants in our community to distribute it that way.”

“Then – and this is why it’s so important to have diversity in your coalition – one of our parents brought up that this is great for parents that are going to restaurants, but there’s a slice of our community that isn’t. What we were seeing at that time was a notable uptick in food pantries in the area, so we realized that we also needed to distribute through the those as well. It was such an aha moment for us.”

“On the flyer, we added our text-a-tip hotline, as well as puzzles and games like word scrambles and word finds. We had to really think through what to put on there, because what prevention words would we include in a word find? We also considered, if what they are looking for is prevention messaging, it might not be very engaging. What we ultimately decided was to have 80% of the flyer be fun puzzles and have 20% include prevention messaging.”

“In terms of prevention messaging, we included our text-a-tip hotline and our Talk, Monitor, Secure message. We also made sure to include some local statistics. Since we have Spanish speakers in our communities, we made sure when it’s folded there is one side that is in English and the other side in Spanish.”

“After those were made, we had to determine which restaurants and food pantries we were going to approach. One of our parents had a pre-established relationship with the food pantries, so she was the one that reached out for that. As for the restaurants, we went to our coalition to ask which family-friendly restaurants seemed like a good place to approach. We only approached local restaurants because we felt like bigger, national chains would have more red tape. The city managers also recommended restaurants, which helped when we approached those restaurants to ask if they would participate because it added a little more weight.”

“It was mostly our parent committee that approached restaurants, but we also had law enforcement officers help out too. So, as you can imagine, if the police chief comes to your restaurant asks you to include the flyers with your takeout, it can be hard to say no. So including them was really successful in getting restaurants to participate.”

“When we first started this in the fall of 2020, we distributed 2,600 activity sheets to 15 restaurants and two food pantries. As we were making the activity sheets, we made sure that they would be evergreen if we ever wanted to use them again, so this summer we did another round of distribution. We switched up a few of the restaurants, but this time we distributed 5,400 activity sheets to 15 restaurants and one food pantry.”

“Overall, I think the biggest lessons learned were, getting law enforcement involved helped a lot with distribution and increasing participation. Also, the importance of diversity when you are working on strategies like this, because I think missing the food pantries would have been a pretty big miss. In general, I believe the outcome was better because we were working with multiple sectors. For this project, we worked with parents, city managers/government, law enforcement, and business sectors.”

“It did take a lot of work to put together the activity sheets. We had our whole parent committee working on it, so we had one parent take over making the puzzle and another coming up with the conversation starters. One parent helped us to translate everything, which turned out to be a more involved process than we thought, especially for the puzzles. Then, we had a graphic designer help to put it all together. We’re currently in our fifth year of our DFC grant, so sustainability is on the top of our minds, which is why we decided to make a generic version of these activity sheets in case other coalitions wanted to implement this in their community.”