By Mark Powell
United We Stand (Against Addiction)
Back in 1976, America was celebrating its 200th birthday. And in the state where our nation’s story began, a new approach to preventing substance misuse and risk-related behaviors was launched. Eight dedicated prevention specialists got together back then and created the Commonwealth Prevention Alliance.
More than four decades later, the Alliance is going stronger than ever. It now boasts over 300 members and is recognized as Pennsylvania’s foremost prevention voice. Bringing together players in the prevention field around the Commonwealth, such as school district administrators, Communities That Care organizations, college and communications, certified drug counselors, state organizations, and others, this grassroots effort provides essential support to prevention efforts by developing and providing free materials about opiate addiction and drug misuse prevention.
Consider PA Stop, the Alliance’s popular campaign to stop opiate addiction. The result of a partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, it not only focuses on preventing people from becoming addicted to opiates, but it also shares information on how to access treatment. So far all but one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have been reached by the campaign. That not only provides consistent messaging statewide but also makes materials available to rural areas and small towns that otherwise might not get them.
As Commonwealth Prevention Alliance president Tammy Taylor observes, “I work in Washington County, outside of Allegheny County. We don’t always have access to prevention resources. These materials help us to remain consistent with the rest of the state and saves time searching for them.”
Local communities are welcome to personalize materials. The Alliance often recognizes the creative use of PA Stop materials, including the use of billboards and pop-up banners. The Alliance makes sure those materials can be tailored to fit the needs of the communities.
Another important service the Alliance provides is hosting an annual conference. For 27 years, it’s been an important opportunity for prevention specialists to receive education, learn new techniques, and ensure local efforts are utilizing available materials.
“We are an important resource to prevention specialists in the field,” says executive director Jeff Hanley. “We produce handouts that can be given to people, messaging for radio public service announcements, billboards, and much more. We also have an evaluator on board who tells us how well these different things are working. I think the fact that people are continually reaching out to us, be it through using the materials we produce or attending our meetings and conferences, shows there’s still a need for the Alliance to keep pushing forward and to continue being the prevention voice at the state level.”
“United we stand” was the approach the Founding Fathers took when creating our country long ago. That same spirit drives the Commonwealth Prevention Alliance’s efforts today as it works to make sure all Pennsylvanians receive the same clear, consistent prevention message.
Commonwealth Prevention Alliance 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.