MANSFIELD, OH — What will it take to reduce youth substance use in Richland County?
A group of people from 12 different sectors are working together to tackle this problem and promote healthy activities.
Richland Public Health was awarded a federal Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grant in October 2019 to sustain the Richland County Youth Substance Use Coalition. The coalition works to create positive community change through education, population-level strategies, and effective programs, practices, and policies.
“I am proud of the coalition’s results during the past year,” said Gurp Deol, Health Educator at Richland Public Health. “We’ve worked to collect data, facilitate prescription drug take-backs, and provide information and resources for the community.”
The coalition is one of roughly 700 DFC Coalitions across the country. The focus is on reaching students at Mansfield Middle School and Mansfield Senior High School, as well as all youth throughout Richland County.
“While the public often thinks that many of the risks and challenges for our community members, such as suicide or substance use, are too big or too complex and difficult to address, they may not realize that community coalitions have been successful in addressing these problems for many years,” said Dr. Zili Sloboda, president of Applied Prevention Science International and a world-renowned expert in prevention.
Sloboda said the basis of this success is community coalitions recognize the vulnerability to engage in any of these behaviors arises from many influences in the community.
It is important to have coordinated, comprehensive prevention interventions and policies, particularly those that have demonstrated their effectiveness through rigorous research, to address these negative influences.
According to Sloboda, current research shows these coalitions can be effective in coordinating the work of leading organizations and other stakeholders to provide the needed prevention services that help families, schools, and workplaces produce protective environments.
The best results come from prevention professionals working closely with other stakeholders who represent key community organizations such as schools, health organizations, law enforcement or social and family service agencies.
There are opportunities for youth, officials, and community members to participate in events and join the Richland County Youth Substance Use Coalition. Sign up for the monthly e-newsletter to learn more about how you can gain resources and contribute to solutions. Those that sign up for the newsletter by Nov. 1 will be entered into a drawing to win $25 gift cards to the location of your choice.
The coalition actively uses the seven strategies for community change recognized through the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA): providing information, enhancing skills, providing support, enhancing access/reducing barriers, changing consequences, physical design, modifying/changing policies.
“This is our community; let’s work together for our children and our families,” Sloboda said.