How the Coalition Started
The Fayette Prevention Coalition was formed from the growing need to address issues related to the drug crisis in Fayette County. The coalition works closely with schools, organizations and the county government to educate the community on the drug epidemic and harness positive partnerships to create change.
In 2017, a small group of agencies came together with the common goal of addressing issues related to the drug crisis. Initially, representatives from the Fayette County Health Department, Sheriff’s Department, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Adult Drug Court began meeting on a regular basis to discuss ways to decrease overdose rates and prevent the spread of disease in Fayette County. The group scheduled two special events where the documentary Heroin(e) was shown, followed by a panel discussion. Both events were widely attended, and it became clear that the community was engaged and eager to be part of the solution. Following those events, the Fayette County Health Department hosted a meeting to introduce the Iceland Project to key community stakeholders. Dr. Alfgeir Kristjansson, of the WVU School of Public Health presented on how prevention programming decreased teen drinking and drug rates in Iceland and what that same programming might look like in southern West Virginia. This meeting received positive feedback and ignited stakeholders. It was decided that there was a need to form a more formal coalition of stakeholders to work on these projects. The Fayette County Substance Abuse Task Force began holding meetings in May 2018. The group has been meeting monthly since, and several projects and programs have been started as a result including the creation of the “Prescription Opioid and Illicit Drug Awareness Toolkit Prevention Guide.” Later named the Fayette Prevention Coalition, their mission became: To engage citizens in ongoing community empowerment and to implement comprehensive prevention strategies to reduce youth substance use.
In the fall of 2019, the Fayette County Health Department, a prominent member of the Fayette Prevention Coalition, began implementing the Iceland Prevention Model into the community as the Integrative Community Engagement (ICE) Collaborative. This prevention model focuses on strengthening the key protective factors and mitigating risk factors in the local community environment of youth to delay initiation of substance use. Youth in grades 7-12 in the Fayette County Schools complete the extensive ICE survey that lends us a picture of youth substance use as well the factors in their lives that could potentially lead to initiation of substance use. That data shows that we need more meaningful activities that are led by adult mentors in our communities as youth indicate they are most likely to use substances when no adult is present. Thus, through the Adventure: Fayette County committee, we work to reduce the barriers to participation in activities as well as provide those opportunities through free programming that is designed to engage families, build coping skills and strengthen protective factors surrounding our youth.
Two successful prevention activities that the coalition held that year were the Walk for Hope and Project: Adventure. A Walk for Hope was a recovery walk with the focus to reduce stigma, educate the public and provide resources to the community. Project: Adventure was a two day event for youth in the 4th and 5th grades to familiarize them with outside of school and after school activities offered throughout Fayette County. Approximately 900 students, 120 volunteers and 30 organizations made this event a success. This event inspired conversations among citizens about the current risk of youth substance use and the importance of addressing primary prevention.
In December of 2020, the Fayette Prevention Coalition was awarded the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grant. The goals of the DFC are to improve community collaboration in the Fayette Prevention Coalition and to reduce youth substance use of alcohol and tobacco among middle and high school students. DFC uses evidence based programs and community input to implement change across seven environmental strategies.
The Fayette Prevention Coalition continues to meet monthly and currently has nine committees working across the continuum of care. Their most notable accomplishments for 2021 include:
- The successful “Save A Life Day” – Free Narcan Distribution Event. During Save A Life Day, 552 Narcan kits were handed out to the residents of Fayette County. Over 60 volunteers worked on this day from 10am-6pm covering 9 different Fayette County locations.
- The roll out of the Spring/Summer Youth Passport. This 60 page booklet was handed out to all 3rd and 4th grade students in May to encourage them to: Get youth outside; Engage youth and families in their communities; Use our public libraries as the valuable resource they are; and Encourage youth to eat fresh food from local farmers’ markets. Students earn prizes for participation. The passport was created because evidence shows that being active outside and in one’s community leads to better physical and mental health. Youths’ interaction with the resources that surround them like parks, nature and fun activities is a protective factor that could prevent them from early initiation of drug use.
- The formation of their Youth Action Team. This team was created to empower teens to make healthy choices and positively affect their peers, schools and community; to teach our youth prevention strategies; and to get their input on the challenges they face as Fayette County youth.
Be Part of the Solution
If this work speaks to you, we would love to have you join us and “Be part of the solution.”