Tulsa’s got their Fingers on the Pulse of their Community

Whether it’s adult binge and underage drinking or prescription drug abuse, the Coalition Against Prescription and Substance Abuse (CAPSAT) of Tulsa, Okla., has been able to change the environment by partnering with many sectors, including one unique coalition supporter, their Mayor.

Mayor Bartlett started a “Safer, Stronger Tulsa” series of events to focus on societal issues that affect the community and impact public safety. Two summits have previously been held on prescription drug abuse and domestic violence. With the cooperation of the coalition, Mayor Bartlett recently held his third successful public safety event “Safer, Stronger Tulsa.” The topic for the most recent summit was on alcohol awareness with officials from several sectors talking about how excessive use of alcohol and DUI cases affects the Tulsa community.

The coalition’s funding comes from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services through funds from SAMHSA. The funding is divided into two parts: Block Grant and the Partnerships for Success grant. They completed the SPF SIG grant last June.

The Stop DUI Task Force coalition was created in 2013 under the main block grant. The priorities are prevention of underage drinking and adult binge drinking. CAPSAT was created in 2012 under the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) SIG grant. It has continued its mission into the SPF Partnerships for Success grant, working to prevent the non-medical use of prescription drugs. The target age has changed from ages 18 and older under SPF SIG to young people ages 12-25 under the SPF PFS.

Marianne Long, the Tulsa Health Department’s Regional Prevention coordinator, and one of two certified prevention specialists in the coalition, said, “Our Stop DUI Task Force was able to work with the City of Tulsa to set up cab stands in the entertainment areas of town. Prior to that there was no special place for cabs to wait, thus requiring persons who felt they may have had too much to drink and needed a ride home to call a cab. Often there was a long wait. Now, cabs are readily available in these areas.”

All of the coalition’s prevention work is structured by the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF), and all of their strategies are grounded in research with positive outcomes as shown through an external evaluation which they attempt to replicate in their work. In addition, the coalition is data-driven, as evidenced by the coalition’s choice of priorities based upon a needs assessment.

For adult binge drinking prevention, the coalition determined to select a target community through the ‘hot spot’ approach. There are about four areas in the city which could be termed entertainment areas, and they looked at calls for service and the density of retail alcohol establishments in these areas.

“As might be expected, we found high density of liquor licenses with respect to the population living in those areas and a high proportion of calls for service (DUIs, public intoxication, service to minors, etc.). Working with the city, it was in these locations that we were able to establish cab stands. In addition, coalition members assisted in conducting alcohol risk assessments to determine if there was over-serving of patrons in the bars/restaurants, or free pouring of drinks,” Long said.

Clayton Tselee, a Prevention Specialist with the Tulsa Health Department, also heads up the coalition free Responsible Beverage Sales and Service (RBSS) training. The coalition also helps the establishments to write policies to go along with what they learned in RBSS training.

Tselee said, “We have also offered this free RBSS training for special events, and we have been amazed at the difference it has made. The compliance rate (not selling to minors) has gone from as low as 65 percent at one time to 95 and now, 100 percent.”

The coalition also sponsors the Too Much To Lose (2M2L) student-led prevention youth organization. The 2M2L youth assist the coalition with numerous prevention activities including the alcohol compliance checks and sobriety check points, the latter are offered monthly from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Many of the youth group members are conversant in Spanish, which has become invaluable to the police officers, Tselee said.

Certified Prevention Specialist and the coalition’s SPF PFS Coordinator, Stephanie Tillman touts the coalition’s habit of using their logic model for each of their substance abuse issues.

“We have learned that this is a key element in maintaining our focus and keeping our projects on track. Keeping projects on track is also enhanced through the use of routine evaluation which not only shows us our progress, but also alerts us to any adjustments/changes that might need to be made,” Tillman said.

Long, Tselee, and Tillman said that as preventionists, they have learned that community readiness is key to a coalition’s success. There had been overdoses and car crashes and Tulsa was ready to buck the trend.

Long concluded, “This is one of the reasons that the Mayor’s Summits on ‘A Stronger, Safer Tulsa’ were so important. There was support from many parts of local government (mayor, police, district attorney), and the public response to each was strong and positive. Media coverage was excellent. Further, we have all read about and know that partnerships are important, and these summits truly proved the rule. Our work with the City of Tulsa (Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Chief of Police Chuck Jordan, and District Attorney Steve Kunzwelier) has shown us just how much we can accomplish when we combine our resources and work together toward our goals. We have learned to appreciate the different skill sets that we each have, and as a result we have become a strong team, and we hope to continue this relationship.”

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