WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fred Wells Brason II and Donna Parks Hill from Project Lazarus, based in Moravian Falls, N.C., recently returned from the Washington, D.C., area where they joined more than 3,100 substance abuse prevention specialists and advocates from across the country for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America’s (CADCA) 28th Annual National Leadership Forum on Feb. 5-8. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) convened its 14th Annual Prevention Day on Feb. 5, 2016, in conjunction with CADCA’s National Leadership Forum.
During the event, Project Lazarus Wilkes Youth Coalition received a certificate of graduation from the National Coalition Academy, a comprehensive year-long training program developed by CADCA’s National Coalition Institute. NCA is designed specifically for coalition staff and volunteer leadership. Donna Parks Hill, program director, and Cindi Blackburn, project coordinator, completed the training program on behalf of the Wilkes Youth Coalition. By the end of the training, coalition representatives developed five essential products: a community assessment, a logic model, a strategic and action plan, an evaluation plan and a sustainability plan.
“We were so excited to be able to spend several days with other similar organizations from across the country, learning and honing our prevention skills so our community can be a better place, one that doesn’t suffer from the harms of drug and alcohol abuse,” says Donna Parks Hill, program director of Project Lazarus Wilkes Community & Youth Coalitions. “We returned re-energized with new strategies under our belt to tackle drug use throughout Wilkes County.”
CADCA’s Forum covered a wide range of topics — everything from how to prevent prescription drug abuse and the abuse of synthetic drugs and marijuana to how to create tobacco-free environments and develop policies to reduce underage and excessive drinking.
The Wilkes coalition’s efforts are impacting the community in a positive way. According to Hill, Project Lazarus has seen a decrease in middle and high school youths’ self-reported 30-day use of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and prescription medications that were not prescribed to them. Hill continued, “Our uphill battle is access. We have seen a reported increase of access to all of these substances.”
The coalition heard from several federal leaders, including Sean T. Fearns, chief, Community Outreach Section, Office of Congressional & Public Affairs, Drug Enforcement Administration; Richard Baum, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and Bertha K. Madras, Ph.D., professor of Psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, who received CADCA’s National Leadership Award at the event.
“The Wilkes Coalition continues to seek current prevention action plans and strategies to address the needs of our youth to avert potential pitfalls of substance use,” said Brason, president and founder of Project Lazarus.
CADCA’s National Leadership Forum, the nation’s largest training conference for community prevention leaders, treatment professionals and researchers and SAMHSA’s 12th Prevention Day, occurred at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center Feb. 1-4. Visit the Forum website for details about training sessions, speakers, and special events at forum.cadca.org/.
CADCA’s National Leadership Forum is the nation’s premier training event for substance abuse prevention and treatment professionals and researchers, featuring more than 70 training courses to help participants learn effective strategies to address drug-related problems in their communities. This four-day training event brings together community drug prevention coalitions from all regions of the country and internationally, government leaders, youth, prevention specialists, addiction treatment professionals, addiction recovery advocates, researchers, educators, law enforcement professionals, and faith-based leaders. Topics ranged from how to address the heroin and opioid epidemic and marijuana use among youth to how to reduce tobacco use and underage drinking.
Project Lazarus, a non-profit organization established in 2007 as a response to a local opioid overdose crisis, created The Project Lazarus Model, now used across the state and nation to establish community coalitions to address substance use and abuse and combat the overdose epidemic. The Project Lazarus Model is based on the twin premises that overdose deaths are preventable and that all communities are responsible for their own health.
Using experience, data and compassion, Project Lazarus provides training and technical assistance to communities and individuals, empowering them to prevent prescription medication and drug poisonings (overdoses); present responsible pain management; and promote substance use education, treatment and support services. For prescribers and clinicians, Project Lazarus offers education on pain management, naloxone and safe prescribing practices. The organization also offers special programs for law enforcement, military and tribal populations.