Coalitions in Action – Impact Spartanburg Stays Community-Focused During COVID-19

“Impact Spartanburg is a community coalition started in 2008 in response to impaired driving,” said the coalition’s Director of Prevention & Community Programs Joe Pinilla. “Over the past 12 years the coalition’s focus has expanded to include all facets of adolescent substance use prevention. We serve all of Spartanburg County in upstate South Carolina. The county is approximately 800 square miles and is home to over 315,000 people. Intergenerational poverty, transportation and access to mental health services continue to be challenges we experience.”

“Our community is unique in that there are numerous taskforces and advisory boards specifically focused on adolescent welfare, communication between youth-serving providers and access to care,” said Pinilla. “As we move all of our prevention efforts to digital platforms, we have been encouraged by the level of local interest and engagement around supporting the mental health of our young people.”

“Over the past six months we have focused on developing COVID-specific resource guides, identifying ways to remotely engage youth and exploring ways to keep prospective policy change moving forward,” said Pinilla. “On National Overdose Awareness Day we partnered with a dozen community partners to disseminate information about the importance of safe disposal and free Deterra bags. In total, we distributed over 1,400 Deterra bags to all corners of our community. Given the transportation barriers in our community, the ability to collaborate with partners who travel to residents was a huge success.”

“In the past reporting period, we disseminated postcard mailers about permanent dropbox locations to 12,300 residents, had billboards on safe disposal reach more than 250,000 people, distributed resource guides to 1,250 families and participated in a local adolescent health conference,” said Pinilla.

“To other coalitions looking to engage their communities during COVID-19, I would say to collaborate and let go of the need to receive credit,” said Pinilla. “We strongly believe that ensuring the work happens is far more important than whether our logo is front and center. We actively seek to promote activities being done by partners, understand their short and long-term goals and ask how we can best support them during the upcoming season.”

“Coalition development and maintenance is an ongoing activity that can feel like a chore or an amazing opportunity,” said Pinilla. “Get to know your coalition members as people. Find out what brings them to the table, what makes them light up and where they want to serve. It may take you in a different direction than originally planned but the projects and products produced will be more authentic and meaningful.”

“We are so excited to attend the Virtual National Leadership Forum,” said Pinilla. “Since 2016, at least one coalition member has attended every CADCA training event. Attendees always bring back information about innovative strategies, new ways to share data and ways to becoming more culturally competent.”