History of the Christian County Prevention Coalition
The Christian County Prevention Coalition was originally formed in September of 2004, and initially was called the Taylorville Alcohol, Tobacco, & Other Drug Prevention Committee. Suzanne Little, Prevention Coordinator of Christian County Mental Health and counselors from In Touch /Chestnut Health Systems were chairing the monthly meetings that were usually held in the Christian County Sheriff’s office building. Generally, ten to twenty adults from the county attended and there was always representation from the Sheriff’s office, usually Sheriff Kindermann or Deputy Mahan.
At this time, the Coalition recognized the need for preventative activities for our youth, to educate the communities of Christian County on the extent of drug usage, and to implement a combined effort to keep our youth from making poor choices. The coalition adopted the following mission statement at the March 8, 2005 meeting, “Christian County Prevention Coalition is a community organization that plans, promotes, implements, and coordinates community efforts to prevent and reduce the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.” To accomplish our mission, several activities were conducted. Initially, it was important to determine the types and extent of drug usage in our youth. All junior high and high schools in the county were asked to have their 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grade students participate in the Illinois Youth Survey, an anonymous drug and unhealthy activities survey. This needed administrative and board approval in all districts. Several school districts participated and this information gave the coalition a starting point for prevention activities. Tobacco usage was the most frequently-used drug used at all levels. Since tobacco was also seen as a gateway drug, it was our first The American Lung Association as well as the Prevention Coordinator were available for instruction at county schools. Also, with the assistance of the Sheriff’s office, the Christian County Prevention Coalition conducted tobacco compliance checks throughout the county on several different occasions, as well as a training session on tobacco laws for owners or managers of businesses selling tobacco. Although not indicated as high usage among students, meth usage was definitely increasing in Christian County among adults. The Coalition felt the children of these users would also be exposed and education should begin on this relatively new drug. Because of the number of arrests, it was decided the county should also be educated about the dangers of meth. Two open forums were held, one at Taylorville Junior High School and another at the U of I Extension Office building on Meth usage in Christian County. Sheriff Kindermann, States Attorney Brad Paisley, and former meth-user Stacey Shallenbarger were the main speakers at both events. Although the Coaltion had a good start, as with many coalitions, grant funding ended and the Prevention Coordinator’s position was eliminated. Without a coordinator, meetings and activities diminished, as did our existence by 2007. In 2010, the Christian County Public Health Department received grant funding to hire a Prevention Coordinator and again rekindled the fires of prevention. John Coady, a well -known and respected Christian County retired judge, assumed the position of Coordinator of the Christian County Coalition. Once again, the new Coalition has recognized the need of educating Christian County to the poor choices that are being made by our youth.
Why We Revived
Undoubtedly like hundreds of other communities across the United States, the parents, educators, law enforcement personnel, professionals, and individuals from all walks of life in our community have been alarmed by the threat, reality, and consequences of illegal drugs, alcohol abuse, and tobacco abuse. In particular, the alarm has risen to shock when the ages and number of youth who abuse substances are considered. In our rural area, people have seen the nightmare of deaths on the highways caused by alcohol or drug abuse; parents have experienced the promise of fulfilling careers in the lives of their sons and daughters shattered by alcohol and drug addiction; we have witnessed the destruction of healthy and fulfilling relationships in the lives of the youth of our community caused by substance abuse, and citizens have personally been victimized by the direct and indirect abuse of illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Folks in Christian County appreciate the efforts by various agencies, law enforcement, and treaters that have been made to combat these threats, but the reality of illegal drugs, alcohol abuse, and tobacco abuse remains. Ordinary folks are eager not only to be heard on the matter, but they want to take action. A vehicle was needed to provide proper education, to obtain reliable data, to have training on effective strategies, to acquire necessary funding to implement strategies, and to have the political clout to influence change in key governmental and other sectors of the community. More than anything, the needed vehicle would need to organize these activities and effectively harness the energy among the people ready to act. The creation of the Christian County Prevention Coalition is the vehicle that holds that promise of fulfilling these aspirations. As a result of a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services to the Christian County Health Department, a coalition has been formed within the last few months. Attendance, enthusiasm, and participation have been very good. The membership of the Christian County Prevention Coalition includes individuals in every community sector. Great things are planned and expected.