My Introduction to Prevention
For most of my life, I have been engaged in substance abuse prevention efforts. It began in middle school, when my guidance counselor recommended that I become involved with our school’s drug-free group, the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Awareness (IDAA). One of the collaborative components of IDAA was an annual weekend, which brought together up to ten students from each school district in the tri-county area. In addition to learning about prevention, attendees also had the opportunity to engage and network (although for middle school, it was really just hanging out) with one another. This is were my prevention connections began.
Prevention in High School
IDAA led to the county-wide high school group, Allen County Teens Improving our Neighborhoods (ACTION). The ACTION coordinators understood the importance of collaboration, not only locally, but beyond our tri-county service area. Through ACTION, I had the amazing opportunity to engage with state and nationwide organizations, such as Youth to Youth International and Ohio Teen Institute (OTI). Throughout my adolescents, I knew that my profession would be based within the sphere of social service, but it was during my time in high school, being involved with ACTION and OTI, that I found my calling for prevention.
My College Path & First Prevention Job
After graduation from high school, I had to make a choice of degrees. In order to best obtain my Ohio Certified Prevention Specialist (OCPS) credential, I knew my degree needed to be in a social service area. I landed on Psychology. Upon graduation from The Ohio State University, I had the opportunity to return home and begin working for Century Health, Inc., a local substance abuse and mental health treatment agency, which also provided prevention services in Hancock County (Findlay, OH and the surrounding area). It is here where my passion for prevention became a profession. As a Prevention Educator, I spent most of my days either involved in coalition work through the initiatives of the Hancock County Community Partnership or in classrooms providing students, grades K-12, with education related to topics such as tobacco, alcohol, exercise, and healthy eating. I spent my evenings and weekends engaging with the Hancock Addiction Prevention Program for Youth (HAPPY) Youth Staff and the Hancock County Teen Institute.
Drug Free Action Alliance
After two years at Century Health, I felt a need to return to Columbus. Through my engagement with the Statewide Prevention Coalition Association (SPCA), I was familiar with the statewide agency, Ohio Parents for Drug Free Youth, now Drug Free Action Alliance (DFAA). My work at DFAA began with the Coalition Against Meth, but what is most notable was directing Parents Who Host, Lose the Most: Don’t be a party to teenage drinking. Through Parents Who Host, I was able to connect with individuals and community groups throughout the nation. Under my leadership, the program was implemented in all 50 states, most US territories, and several other countries. As needs continued to develop around social hosting, I was also involved in the development of BUZZKILL: Serve Under 21 and the Party’s Over. Through my time at DFAA, I also participated in the development of Drug Free 24/7, the Ohio Youth-Led Prevention Network, and created the Problem Gambling Resource Center.
The ATOD Prevention Group
In 2010, Ohio was awarded a Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) State Incentive Grant (SIG). As part of the grant, certified prevention professionals were needed to provide training and technical assistance for communities working to build capacity related to substance abuse among 18-25 year olds. I was contacted to serve as a trainer and because the scope of work extended beyond my responsibilities at DFAA, I became an independent contractor and founded The ATOD Prevention Group. In 2015, it was time to fully focus on The ATOD Prevention Group, and provide an array of services, which extended beyond what I could offer at DFAA.
Have a question, or comment, please let me know! This blog is dedicated to those who work or volunteer in substance abuse prevention and health promotion and your feedback is valuable.