Coalitions in Action— Hancock County Community Partnership Facilitates Family Drug Conversations

 

Tell me about your community and the communities that your coalition serves – its population and unique features. When was the coalition formed?

The Hancock County Community Partnership (Community Partnership) was established in 1990 as a result of receiving a five year federal Community Partnership grant. The Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board served as the fiscal agent for the grant. At the close of the grant period, the ADAMHS Board made a decision to continue to fund the efforts of the Community Partnership. Since that time, the Community Partnership has been a charter committee of the ADAMHS Board.

As a charter committee of the ADAMHS Board, the Community Partnership shares the same target community: all residents of Hancock County, a predominantly rural, middle-class, majority Caucasian community of 74,000 residents. Findlay is the county-seat with 40,000 residents of similar demographics. The Community Partnership aims to help create the healthiest community in Ohio and believes firmly that Hancock County citizens are valued and that no person is expendable. As such, the value and worth of each community member is of the greatest concern for the Community Partnership and any implemented strategy must reinforce the value of life in Hancock County.

Today, twenty-nine years after the founding of the Community Partnership, the organization stands strong, not only promoting harmful substance use prevention, but also promoting mental health and supporting family and community-based prosocial opportunities throughout Hancock County. The Community Partnership has thirty active members, representing all twelve community sectors.

What unique issues is your coalition facing?

Due to the Community Partnership’s longevity, it has significantly evolved since its beginning. During its early years, the Community Partnership focused specifically on providing education and programming to promote abstinence from substance use and delay the onset of first use. This was accomplished through direct programming and school-based events. As funding streams and staffing patterns changed, and coalition science evolved, so did the work of the Community Partnership – moving from programming/event focus to environmental/policy focus. Through this shift, not only does the Community Partnership continue to maintain a strong core of active members, but has expanded its opportunity to affect community change by involving nearly seventy-five stakeholders representing thirty organizations through its support of the Hancock County Opiate Task Force and Recovery Oriented System of Care Leadership Team.

As a result, maintaining strong communication and a clear understanding of how each participant fits within the larger scope of work is a unique issue to the Community Partnership. There is sincere engagement and commitment from all its members and it is critical to ensure there is no duplication or deficiencies so that each member understands the value of their voice.

What activity or program is your coalition most proud of and/or what activity would you like us to spotlight?

There are three initiatives of which the Community Partnership is most proud: Hidden In Plain Sight, Youth-Led Prevention Initiative, and data collection.

The Community Partnership helped launch the Hidden in Plain Sight community-based education program. Hidden in Plain Sight is designed to provide an opportunity for parents and caregivers to scan a youth’s bedroom (mock set-up) for signs of possible substance use and/or other high-risk behaviors. As a result, the Community Partnership has seen an environmental change in the level of which community members more openly discuss youth risk and protective factors.

Supported through funding provided by The Marathon Classic (Marathon Petroleum Corporation), the Youth-Led Prevention Initiative has allowed every school in Hancock County an opportunity to build and/or expand youth-led prevention efforts. Each school was asked to develop a youth-led pro-social opportunity that would encourage healthy behaviors. The results were wide and highly successful, including a series of family movie nights to the development of student-led support groups for youth new to the school, struggling with personal issues, or simply needing encouragement for an upcoming test. Youth participants met collectively at the end of the school year to publicly share their opportunities and bond with youth from other schools. Student leadership teams have reported to the Community Partnership that they continue to expand their youth-led prevention initiatives at their schools and look for ways to increase pro-social opportunities for their peers.

The Community Partnership relies heavily on data collected through the Tri-Annual Community Health Assessment, the Opiate Task Force, and Recovery Oriented System of Care Leadership Team. Every year the coalition creates a strong strategic plan based on local data. The members of the Community Partnership believe they are making the most informed decisions to select strategies because of this data – and are able to properly evaluate outcomes of the strategies as evidenced through positive data changes.

How did you get there, and what are your outcomes? (Be as specific as possible in terms of strategies that you used)

The Community Partnership followed community readiness data that indicated an awareness of youth substance use, but lacked the necessary skills to address the issue. Additionally, data that indicates there is a 50% reduction in first time use when a parent or guardian talks with a youth about substance use, helped to inform the need to develop the Hidden in Plain Sight community-based education program. In October 2017, the Community Partnership presented this data and an overview of the proposed program to the Hancock Leadership 2018 Class. The Hancock Leadership 2018 Class selected the proposal and began raising funds ($10,000) and secured equipment (trailer, furniture, drug paraphernalia) for the project. A community roll-out event was planned and occurred in May 2018. Since Hidden in Plain Sight’s inaugural event, 23 events have been completed to-date with over 800 community members attending.

What advice would you give to other coalitions that may be addressing some of the same issues?

“Communication and evolution,” said Hancock County Community Partnership Coordinator Zachary Thomas. “We all understand that communication (i.e. information dissemination) is imperative to successfully addressing any harmful substance use issue. However, it is just as important that all members of the coalition are informed of the work of the coalition and understand clearly that their voice is valued and imperative to creating lasting community change. Likewise, as community needs change, so do the needs of the coalition in order to remain viable – as we evaluate initiative outcomes, we must also evaluate the function of the coalition itself, including mission, goals, objectives, and stakeholder buy-in. If the Community Partnership had not allowed itself to evolve along with prevention science, its history would be short lived.”