Community coalitions are an integral component of a community's response to substance abuse. Coalitions have the power to mobilize diverse groups and multiple resources to solve local problems. This type of organizing helps develop a community-wide sense of power and competence. From that empowerment comes new solutions.
The meth crisis in Illinois poses exactly the kind of problem that requires local action. Because the use and manufacture of meth impacts the community as a whole, a unified local response is the strongest line of defense. The meth crisis demands that law enforcement, child protection agencies, community based organizations, treatment professionals, prevention specialists, local officials, schools, the medical community, and the business community join forces with a strategic plan of attack.
The following is an overview of the core components to community coalition building:
Hold a town meeting. Invite your local officials, law enforcement, community groups, social service agencies, school personnel, and residents. Use this meeting to share opinions about the issues and identify volunteers who can help with a coalition.
GET THE REAL PICTURE
The coalition planning group should be made up of representatives from each facet of your community. This group then gathers information that will paint the real picture of the problem. When you can clearly articulate the problem and substantiate that with local evidence, your momentum will grow.
Brainstorm and document all of the possible resources you have available. Include organizations that have common interests, serve similar populations, or have a strong sense of civic responsibility. Create a system to ensure these groups are informed about the work that the coalition is doing.
Once you know precisely what the problem is, to what extent it impacts your community, and how to keep everyone informed, it is time to determine the mission of the coalition. Your mission is important because it gives everyone a sense of what you are working towards.
Now you can decide what strategies will logically reduce the problems you identified. After deciding on the best strategies, you can also link the amount of change you want to see as a result of each strategy and WHEN you expect to see these changes.
GET TO WORK
Once you have strategies and timelines identified for success, you then can create an action plan that defines who does what, by when, and how. This delineation of tasks will ensure that you reach the goals of the group.
According to your timeline for success, look back on the progress of the coalition. Did you achieve your initial goals? Do you have evidence that you produced the amount of change you wanted? Use this information to assess what strategies worked well, which strategies were not effective, and what direction the coalition will go next.
Share your success! Announce to everyone the achievements of the coalition. Get your local media to help spread the word. Use this time to emphasize the momentum of the coalition and solicit involvement from new members.
Yes. The following are some of the resources available to support community coalitions:
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
The Office of National Drug Control Policy sponsors the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, which is designed to reduce substance abuse among youth and is a strong source of funding. Also included on this Web site are alternative funding sources for anti-drug coalitions.
Community Partners, Inc.
Community Partners, Inc., creates opportunities for people to develop and sustain community solutions by fostering relationships among individuals, organizations, and systems. They focus on access to health care for Massachusetts residents and have many useful resources for developing coalitions available for download on their Web site.
The Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA is the federal agency charged with improving the quality and availability of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitative services in order to reduce illness, death, disability, and cost to society resulting from substance abuse and mental illness. This Web site has an abundance of current research, examples of successful efforts, and available funding resources.
Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America
The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America builds and strengthens the capacity of community coalitions to create safe, healthy, and drug-free communities. The organization supports its members with technical assistance and training, public policy, media strategies and marketing programs, conferences, and special events. This Web site contains information on public policy, research and training opportunities, funding sources, and coalition building.
National Civic League
The National Civic League advocates for the issues of community democracy. Citizens are encouraged to be actively engaged in the process of self-governance and work in partnership with the public, private, and nonprofit sectors of society, and where citizens are creating active civic culture reflective of the diversity of community voices. This Web site contains resources and research spotlighting cutting-edge innovation and trends, including community stories, publications, speeches, and links to related organizations.
Illinois National Guard
The Illinois National Guard Counterdrug Division supports schools with life skills training, drug resistance classes, learning activities, and mobile ropes courses. The Illinois National Guard also provides partnership opportunities and coalition-building support to community organizations. Contact the Counterdrug Division for more information at (217) 761-3728.
Alliance for Justice
The Alliance for Justice is a national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women's, children's, and consumer advocacy organizations. The Alliance works to advance the cause of justice for all Americans, strengthen the public interest community's ability to influence public policy, and foster the next generation of advocates. Their Nonprofit Advocacy Project works to strengthen the voice of the nonprofit sector in important public policy debates by giving tax-exempt organizations a better understanding of the laws that govern their participation in the policy process.
National Crime Prevention Council
The National Crime Prevention Council is a national nonprofit educational organization that serves as a source of aid to individuals, neighborhoods, communities, and governments. Also known as "The McGruff People," this council offers a wide range of information related to crime prevention, public awareness, public policy issues, training and technical assistance, pathbreaking pilot projects, and free publications.
United States Department of Health and Human Services
This Web site serves as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & SAMHSA's clearinghouse for substance abuse prevention and treatment information. Here you will find an extensive searchable database and a regional information system. This information system is the largest substance abuse infrastructure consisting of state clearinghouses, prevention resource centers, and organizations supporting substance abuse prevention activities.
Join Together Online
Join Together Online is a comprehensive network of free Internet services supporting community-based efforts to address substance abuse and gun violence. It is a project from Boston University.
Illinois Coalition for Community Services
The Illinois Coalition for Community Services is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping communities grow throughout Illinois. This organization assists communities in creating indigenous grassroots organizations to identify needs, assess strengths and organize volunteers. The Web site lists numerous activities for which they offer technical assistance.
Prevention First, Inc.
Prevention First, Inc., is a highly respected training and resource organization, specializing in substance abuse and related issues. They offer a wide variety of support services. The Web site contains access to their extensive prevention library and information about current trainings and publications.
Illinois Community Action Association (ICAA)
The Illinois Community Action Association is a membership organization comprised of community action agencies statewide. ICAA serves the collective interests of its 40 member agencies by providing programs and activities in the areas of representation, education, information exchange, advocacy and other support services. Here you can access a forum for Illinois coalitions and utilize this network as a resource.
The Illinois Alcohol and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA)
The Illinois Alcohol and Drug Dependence Association is a statewide organization established in 1967 representing more than 100 prevention and treatment agencies, as well as individuals who are interested in the substance abuse field. IADDA advocates for sound public policy that will create healthier families and safer communities. IADDA members educate government officials in Springfield and Washington, and work to increase the public's understanding of substance abuse and addiction. This Web site contains tips on how to access government officials, news on prevention and substance abuse programs, and links to other resources.