The Coalition for Healthy Communities seeks to reduce substance abuse, especially among youth, by working to develop, implement and promote environmental strategies and coordinating and sharing resources to maximize the quality and availability of services to communities in Middlesex County. To do this work effectively, the coalition has several Task Forces in place that are focused on specific priorities of the coalition, such as underage drinking, prescription drug abuse and youth issues. Members had the option of joining one of these Task Forces in addition to being a general member.
Starting this year, we took the Task Force idea to a new and more productive level. Not only did we revamp existing Task Forces and add two new ones, but we made them the core of the Coalition. Members join a Task Force of their interest and through that process become members of the larger coalition, resulting in more active participation. Now, every month during our regularly scheduled Coalition meetings, members have the chance to break off into the Task Force of their choice and become an active part of the change we are aspiring to achieve within our communities here in Middlesex County.
The Coalition for Healthy Communities current goal-focused Task Forces include:
Sustainability Task Force:
The Sustainability Task Force focuses on building Coalition internal capacity (member and financial) and a strong infrastructure to ensure the Coalition’s strategic position as a valued county prevention resource past the end of a current funding source. Activities include monitoring the effectiveness of the new Task Force structures, assessing training needs, expanding collaborative community partnerships, and developing a Sustainability Plan.
Tobacco Task Force:
Formerly our Youth Task Force, the focus has changed to focus on an issue of particular concern for youth in Middlesex County and a state prevention priority — tobacco use prevention. This Task Force will assess existing tobacco prevention services in Middlesex County, identify groups that need support for their current prevention efforts, develop new strategies to address tobacco prevention, and the use of such products as e-cigarettes and hookah. School and youth group advisors will receive information and resources to support the efforts of their youth to reduce the use of these products by their peers.
Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force:
This Task Force focuses Coalition efforts on education and raising awareness about prescription and OTC drug abuse. A main focus of this Task Force over the coming year is to increase education efforts to the medical community, and raise awareness of the 911 Overdose Prevention legislation through a comprehensive media campaign, One Call-One Life Saved. The campaign includes posters and wallet cards stressing the importance of calling “911” in any overdose situation. Another focus is the expansion of our current “Be Smart About Medicine” poster/essay contest, to include a lesson plan (to be sent to area middle schools) on the dangers of prescription drug misuse, which will increase the quality of the submissions.
Underage Drinking Task Force:
The Underage Drinking Task Force works to address this issue through education and environmental strategies including Town Hall Meetings, Responsible Beverage Server Trainings and implementing awareness campaigns such as Parents Who Host Lose the Most, Talk, They Hear You and Sticker Shock events. They also work to impact community norms and advocate for public policies that aim to reduce underage drinking.
Marijuana Task Force:
The Marijuana Task Force will work to address the issue of legalization vs. decriminalization of marijuana in New Jersey. It will work to educate the community on what these issues would mean to NJ’s youth. The Task Force will utilize information from our community and school surveys to identify and address community norms through environmental strategies such as Town Hall Meetings, community forums, and awareness campaigns.
Older Adult Task Force:
This newly identified Task Force is being created to respond to an identified need to address prevention with the older adult population. This Task Force will identify organizations and service providers working with seniors 60 years + and provide them with training and awareness of risk factors for substance use and abuse. Awareness campaigns for senior housing and other senior living facilities will be developed.