Coalitions in Action – Taos Alive Coalition Guides Youth and Supports Adults During COVID-19

“Taos Alive serves all of Taos County in Northern New Mexico,” said Coalition Director Miles Bonny. “We are a rural area with poverty-stricken areas as well as wealthy tourism and retirees who move here from other areas of the country, especially Texas and California. Our challenges relate to that poverty, as well as our relationship with surrounding communities with whom we collaborate.”

“As the COVID-19 pandemic started to evolve, we immediately observed the changing conditions and placed some initiatives on hold while enhancing others,” said Bonny. “Much of this work is consumed by assessing what strategies may still be pursued given social distancing. However, the second layer we had to consider is related to the time that coalition members have now to focus on implementation. For some this is more and for others their chronological capacity is less. Turning on a dime along the way is essential to maintain momentum. Additionally, we have relied on our internet presence to support all of our efforts. We created a page called ‘Taos Alive at Home’ that incorporates information that our coalition members felt may be helpful to youth, families and school districts in our region. As a result of creating the page and then providing the link to area school districts to be sent to students along with their new end of year curriculums, we have seen increased web traffic to our website and specifically that page.” 

“We have seen a shift as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses,” said Bonny. “Despite Taos' name recognition, we are a small town, and because of that our coalition members are often very busy with their additional roles and responsibilities. Attendance at online coalition meetings has been a challenge, however following up with members individually a week or less before the meeting has proved to be helpful in increasing attendance. Also, it is more important than ever to allow for extended check-ins or introductions to allow for all present to express how they are that day and also to provide context for the discussions to follow. On the other side of things, due to the webpage and its distribution, we are seeing an increased use of our website.”
“The most successful strategy for us during this time has been meeting youth where they are - on their phones,” said Bonny. “We are not able to meet in person or interact with youth at school so we are learning more about TikTok and finding ways to create outreach media that may prove to be helpful during this time. Mindfulness, healthy decisions and other topics that support a healthy lifestyle seem to be well received.”

“Our website is seeing an increase in visits as a result of our social distancing support page, which supplements some aspects of our in-person information sharing,” said Bonny. “Some coalition members asked if we should cancel our meetings and we have taken the opposite approach as we believe that our coalition meetings are essential for keeping our coalition members connected and heard and our community engaged in this work through positive connection online. Our evaluator said that this is rare, but we see it as a family approach to community. We all need support.”
“To other coalitions dealing with a shift in function during COVID-19, I would say to maintain your meetings, adjust meeting schedules if necessary and realize that this is a time when health is the focus of our collective reality,” said Bonny. “At the beginning of the meetings, coalition members may need a little more time to feel calm and present to discuss these topics. The virus is at the forefront of every discussion. As a result, our work in prevention continues to address a need that is even greater during this time of high stress and concern. Our youth need guidance, and our adults need support.”

“As we enter our 10th year of DFC work, we are thankful for all the strategies we have implemented, the collaboration that has occurred and the ways in which our very presence as a coalition has spawned so many other coalitions that work on related issues in our region,” said Bonny. “Taos Alive Coalition looks forward to continuing to communicate the importance of prevention and improving the health and well-being of our community together.”