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The FRESH coalition holds training retreat
Substance abuse in youth is focus
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Staff Photo by Charles Boothe: Dr. Fran Dunn Butterfoss (left) and Regina Clark led a recent retreat for the FRESH (Focus on Response and Education to Stay Healthy) coalition at the Franklin County Government Center.

Monday, February 4, 2013

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

Members of a Franklin County coalition received training recently from a health educator.

Dr. Fran Dunn Butterfoss, founder and president of Coalitions Work and professor at Old Dominion University, met with the FRESH (Focus on Response and Education to Stay Healthy) coalition to cover topics related to helping make the group successful.

The coalition was founded about two years ago and is primarily focused on preventing substance abuse in youth.

Members include educators, health professionals, law enforcement personnel, business leaders, faith-based leaders and social service workers.

Butterfoss covered many topics with the group, including the need to structure a coalition with specific goals and procedures.

Issues must be defined, solutions and strategies must be identified, and tools and resources to implement and evaluate the strategies have to be developed, she said.

"We need more procedures built in to make us stronger down the line," she told the group. "You will leave here today with a set of to-do items to put in place."

Butterfoss said the average life span of a coalition is about two years, mainly because of a lack of funding.

Specific procedures with goals and measurable outcomes helps secure funding, she said, because it shows exactly what the coalition is doing and that it is successful.

A coalition must also be diverse, she said, with as many community and professional representatives as possible.

FRESH has been active in tackling substance abuse in youth.

"We encourage people to make healthy, positive choices and want to support the youth in the community in being drug-free," said Regina Clark, community organizer with Piedmont Community Services and FRESH coordinator.

"FRESH officially started in early 2011 so we're about two years old," she added. "The coalition started as a group of concerned parents who wanted to see change

regarding the attitudes of substance abuse, especially alcohol."

Those parents were connected with an Rx Drug Committee that was already meeting locally, and they invited additional partners throughout the community to start and develop a coalition to address the issues that Franklin County faced regarding substance use and abuse, Clark said.

"Just as important, they wanted to promote opportunities for youth to have fun and stay drug-free," she added. "Thus, the small committee has developed into a coalition with over 30 community partners committed to helping reduce and prevent substance abuse in Franklin County."

While the focus is on youth, the coalition is currently receiving funding through a state incentive grant to reduce alcohol related motor vehicle crashes for those between 15 and 24 years old.

After collecting extensive data on alcohol perception and use, the coalition will soon begin implementing strategies to reduce the rates of drinking and driving and motor vehicle crashes, Clark said.

"Thanks to strong partnerships in the community, residents will begin to see more education about the prevention of alcohol abuse and an increase in enforcement by law officials," she said. "My role is to serve as the facilitator for the community organizations who have a common interest in substance abuse prevention."

The FRESH Coalition provides the opportunity for members to collaborate rather than any one or two organizations trying to tackle an issue by themselves, she said.

"Therefore, my role involves bringing partners to the table and working together to make a stronger, collective impact," Clark explained. "It's exciting to

see the development of these partnerships and how they're impacting the community."

Clark said Butterfoss has extensive knowledge of coalition leadership and development, and was invited to facilitate a planning retreat for the Coalition to help the group recognize its strengths, as well as provide

insight on opportunities for growth.

"She was impressed and very supportive of the many things we are doing well in the community," Clark said. "The beginning of the year is a great time to look at where you've been as a group, as well as plan ahead for where you're going. And thanks to her support, we are excited about the opportunities for growth and community change that 2013 brings."

 
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