Coalitions in Action — Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change Adapts to Engage Their Community

“Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change (J4MC) is a Drug-Free Community (DFC) coalition in Janesville, Wisconsin,” said the coalition’s DFC Project Coordinator Jane Goldberg. “Janesville is a suburban community located just above the Wisconsin/Illinois state line. It is the both the county seat and the largest city in Rock County, with a population of over 64,000 residents. With a prime location along the interstate between the larger city centers of Chicago and Minneapolis, Rock County was classified as a high intensity drug trafficking area in 2010. The school district of Janesville serves over 10,000 students in 21 schools, ranging from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.”

“JM4C is a state certified prevention agency with a focus on reducing and preventing underage alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use and medication misuse,” said Goldberg. “The coalition started in 1999 as a committee within the school district to address the needs of youth substance misuse and prevention. It went through a rebrand in 2012 as it formally applied for and received the DFC grant. JM4C is currently in year nine of DFC funding and has evolved into a non-profit organization.”  

“Although not a unique issue, our youth and community engagement has definitely been a challenge since the start of the pandemic,” said Goldberg. “JM4C has adapted our strategies to continue to meet our mission, but we find that reaching youth and adults has been a struggle.”

“Some of the activities our coalition has been able to accomplish during this time include meeting virtually for monthly coalition meetings, bringing in prevention experts to provide trainings to our city council and Alcohol License Advisory Committee and providing cultural competency training to our coalition members,” said Goldberg. “In addition, our coalition has provided virtual or drive-thru substance-free activities each month to youth and community members, worked to engage youth through social media campaigns, partnered with the Janesville Police Department to continue medication take-back events for community members and offered an online version of our Hidden in Plain Sight presentation. Hidden in Plain Sight is a presentation that walks parents and other adult caregivers through a mock teenager’s bedroom, helping them understand how to spot possible drug or alcohol use their teen may be concealing.”

“Last month during one of our monthly substance-free activities, we created a Thanksgiving themed Poster Parade,” said Goldberg. “We made fun and clever Thanksgiving cartoon posters that highlighted drug prevention facts, in both English and Spanish. The posters were placed in one of our neighborhood parks for four days over Thanksgiving week. There was also a poster that redirected participants to visit our website, where they could choose their favorite poster and enter to win a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant in our community.” 

“Since the beginning of the year, we have offered four medication take-back events,” said Goldberg. “As a result of these efforts, we arranged for the safe disposal of roughly 550 pounds of medication. In addition, 58 community members watched our Hidden in Plain Sight online presentation, with 90% reporting that they had a ‘better understanding of what drug-using behavior can look like,’ following the presentation. During the week of the Poster Parade, we had 618 views of the posters on our website.”

“Continue trying different things during this time and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box,” said Goldberg. “What worked well for your coalition last month may not work next month. Variety is the spice of life.”

“Our coalition has greatly benefitted from attending CADCA’s National Leadership Forum in the past,” said Goldberg. “We were highlighted as a GOT Outcomes! Award winner in 2017. We will definitely be offering our coalition members who have not had a chance to attend Forum in the past the opportunity to attend this year. A virtual format will make it easier for some of our members to attend.”