By Mark Powell
Community Input, Action, and Prevention
There was no denying it: violence in Delaware was going from bad to worse. A Newsweek article called Wilmington “Murdertown USA.” Whenever folks discussed the reasons for the trouble, it always turned to the realization that drug misuse, particularly opioids, was steadily rising.
“Drugs are often a root cause of violence,” explains community prevention coordinator Keith Taylor. “Unfortunately, it’s an everyday occurrence for many of our youth.”
So the Delaware Prevention Coalition was created to do something about it. The grant funded program is based out of the West End Neighborhood House and Bellevue Community Center. It works with schools, civic groups, and faith-based organizations to determine the needs of the community and take action. It conducts a community-needs assessment every year and holds evidence-based programs in all schools. Throughout New Castle County, it serves over 1,000 students.
The coalition is split into two groups: the adult and youth coalitions. Each coalition meets monthly and both meet together quarterly. A youth coalition representative always attends each adult meeting.
The youth coalition conducts prevention activities and shares information about drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention to participating groups. Fifteen youth leaders between 6th to 12th grade are selected. “They are people who are looking to make a change in their communities,” explains Antwain Flowers, the Coalition’s community prevention director. They receive a small stipend for their efforts. Many of them see substance misuse in their homes. “Being a part of the Coalition gives them the knowledge, which they then share with their parents.”
Leaders are trained in prevention and help implement prevention strategies in the community. For example, youth leaders are currently making plans with the Drug Enforcement Agency to hold a summit at a local elementary school. They also work with community partners to conduct park scans, which includes better lighting and signage in the parks, back to school events, No Limit Mentoring groups, and prevention workshops.
A key feature of the program is showing kids things that don’t involve drugs and alcohol. “We take them on college tours,” Taylor points out. “We show them how their future can be impacted by misusing drugs and alcohol, and the benefits they can achieve from living without them.”
The adult coalition consists of 12 community sectors, including council people, teachers, and parents.
When asked to describe the positive impact the Coalition is making on young people, Taylor and Flowers quickly recount a lot of names. There’s Hannah, who’s now going off to college. And Jada, who was instrumental in getting more youth involved. There’s Chanel who “volunteers all the time.” They are among the many young people who empower the Coalition to keep working to make a difference for the next generation in Delaware.
Delaware Prevention Coalition was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.