Coalitions in Action – Partnership for Success Gives Advice on the “New Normal” in COVID-19

“The Rhode Island Regional Coalitions are comprised of seven regions covering the state,” said Coalition Project Manager Kathy Gardner. “The Coalitions represents parents, youth, law enforcement, schools, healthcare, businesses, government officials and community leaders. We assess the region’s substance use challenges and work together to develop policies and programs using evidence-based practices.”

“Each town in our coverage area has its own community coalition,” said Gardner. “All the coalitions are very active in working together and also addressing their own individual community culture and needs. Although the regional model is new, maybe only three to four years old, some of the community coalitions have been in existence for over 30 years.”

“DEA Drug Take Back Day would have been this month,” said Gardner. “We were lucky enough to partner with CVS and are mailing out the envelopes for people to send their medications back. One of our local police departments did a great/funny video to promote it and got over 3,000 views! Over 2,000 wellness packs also went out to the school lunch programs and food pantries to be distributed with meals for families.”

“If anything, I think we are all more connected during this challenging time,” said Gardner. “I’m very thankful for the ability to have Zoom meetings. Each morning the coalition teams have a check in where we can all see each other’s faces. We even have a Friday “crazy hat” day to keep us motivated and laughing. We have increased the meeting of all the coalition coordinators from a monthly to a weekly meeting. Together, we’re now working more as a team and coming up with ideas collectively.” 

“Our work is always necessary, in good times and in a crisis,” said Gardner. “I think we are being more sensitive to ourselves and all we work with. The added responsibilities of working from home and then having your children by your side, or for a single person living alone, where work is their social outlet might be a couple of examples of added stresses that require an outlet.” 

“To other coalitions, I would advise you to understand that your work is going to be different,” said Gardner. “Our current state of ‘normal’ is not the same now as it was a few months ago, and we should realize that it may not even go back to the same once this is over.”