Last month I attended, along with other members of WellSpring, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) Leadership Forum in National Harbor, Maryland. As someone who is fairly new to coalition work and drug-related issues, I relished the opportunity to go learn from the people who live and breathe this crucial prevention work.
This forum all started with an eye popping number: 11.8 million. That’s a little shy of 5% of our country’s population. That’s more than the population of 44 different states. That’s the number of Americans that were reported to have misused opioids in 2016.
Going into this conference I had no idea what an opioid was, let alone that their misuse was so prevalent. It became clear immediately to me just how high the mountain is that we have to climb. But then we were able to spend the next few days learning what so many different coalitions, just like our own, are doing to combat this epidemic.
Here we were as a coalition of coalitions celebrating our successes and learning from many of our shared tribulations. With that, the mountain began to look a little less daunting.
As a leader in a youth serving organization, my goal was to come to the conference to learn how we as a team in Pacific County can more effectively engage the youth in our own community. I wanted to learn how other coalitions have been successful in empowering their young adults to lead the charge in planting the seeds of prevention in their peers.
Zach Fincher, a founding member of the Rock Solid Team and graduating high school senior, spoke passionately about how he became involved in prevention events starting in 3rd grade. He had no idea at the time that by setting up chairs for a musical event that he was participating in a coalition’s prevention program. Nor did he realize how his community planted and then continued to cultivate that seed through various events helping him grow as a leader.
They provided him the tools and resources so that he could spread this positive message to his own classmates. It was incredibly powerful to hear this young adult speak at this national forum, and it made me incredibly optimistic about what the future can hold in our own area.
An experience like CADCA is always hard to quantify so soon after you return. We go as a diverse team to learn so many different, important facts and ideas to bring back to our coalition, into our own lives, and our unique lines of work. The challenge comes in figuring out how to balance those interests when choosing your training sessions. You must also come together as a team afterwards to find ways to implement the programs and events that will be most successful in our community in preventing the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
There’s no doubt that WellSpring has already been successful in improving lives of those on the Peninsula. We are committed to continually educating ourselves so that we may further expand how impactful our work can be. I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of this experience or more excited to be a part of what we do next.