ABUSE COALITION SPREADS ITS WINGS!

Jackson County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition leaves United Way of Jackson County and is now a part of the Health Improvement Organization.

By Ken Toll – President and CEO of United Way of Jackson County

Among the many rewarding moments we experience at United Way is watching one of our programs leave the nest to do even greater things in our community.

That’s the case with the Jackson County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (JCSAPC). After many years under the umbrella of United Way, JCSAPC  is being fully integrated with the Health Improvement Organization partnership spearheaded by Allegiance Health.

This is a grand step in an evolution going back more than a decade. Back then, the regional substance abuse authority known as the Mid-South Substance Abuse Commission (now Mid-State Health Network) sought to enhance its prevention efforts by changing its model, working through collaborative groups instead of funding a single organization. This allowed more targeted efforts at preventing substance abuse, with the MSSAC providing guidance and technical assistance.

After some initial challenges getting the idea off the ground locally, the agency came to United Way of Jackson County for help. Participants—Allegiance Health, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jackson County, the Jackson County Intermediate School District, Lifeways, Family Service & Children’s Aid, and others—gave United Way high marks as the organization able to get JCSAPC rolling.

The nature of the work fit perfectly with United Way’s mission and capacities.  We had demonstrated the ability to bring a broad group of stakeholders together, to set a clear common agenda towards which they would all work, to forge effective and measurable strategic plans, and to allocate resources to organizations and hold them accountable for achieving their parts of the plan.

Since that time, with the efforts of dozens of committed organizations, professionals and volunteers, United Way of Jackson County has developed and led one of the most effective and celebrated substance abuse prevention coalitions in the state. Among the accomplishments:

  • Utilizing cutting-edge prevention tools, such as environmental strategies and social media campaigns, to reduce underage alcohol and other drug use throughout the county.
  • Applying tried-and-true strategies such as vendor and server education and working with law enforcement to conduct alcohol and tobacco compliance checks with vendors.
  • Helping establish prescription drug drop boxes, safely removing hundreds of pounds of expired or unused medications from households.
  • Building community capacity to address substance abuse prevention, including winning Jackson’s first-ever federal Drug Free Communities grant that resulted in the highly successful Most Teens Don’t campaign, and supporting the first Drug Summit last December.
  • Supporting the launch of new programs and services (i.e., Recovery Oriented System of Care, led by Home of New Vision) while ensuring that critical existing programs continue (such as the Breakout Drug Education program, now in every school county-wide; and the First-Time Offenders program to help youth learn from their mistakes).

As health care and substance abuse prevention have evolved, it’s clear that there is even greater need to integrate these fields along with physical and behavioral health. HIO has become the logical place to plug in JCSAPC, under the skilled staff of Allegiance’s Community Prevention Department. The team is addressing virtually all other community health priorities and has the capacity and expertise to tackle substance abuse prevention as well .

Reaching this point took over a year of careful analysis and discussion. All agreed the successes of JCSAPC represent momentum that must be preserved—and accelerated where possible. The result of this dialogue was broad agreement that the coalition’s potential for the future could be fully realized as part of the HIO. The transition took place on Sept. 30.

The lesson here is one of collective impact. United Way helped the Jackson County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition become reality and accomplish amazing things. Were we focused only on our organization’s benefit, we wouldn’t be so quick to promote a change. But we saw the long-term benefit to all of Jackson County of supporting the transition. When we think and act collectively, everyone benefits. United Way’s most important bottom line is the community’s well-being, and so we are glad to do exactly that.

We thank and salute all JCSAPC members who helped build the coalition and continue leading it through this transition, and we look forward to seeing the next iteration of JCSAPC under the HIO umbrella.

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