As we reflect on ten years of WeTHRIVE!, we’re featuring some of our partners – organizations that support our goals and objectives in the community. Today we focus on WeTHRIVE!’s win-win relationship with PreventionFIRST!
PreventionFIRST! is a non-profit organization aimed at promoting wellness through the prevention of substance abuse across the lifespan throughout the Tristate. When our WeTHRIVE!℠ communities and schools are working on issues related to substance use, we go to the experts at PreventionFIRST!
Our collaboration over the years has been beneficial for everyone involved. Here’s a look at some of the results…
Three Rivers & tobacco
A few years ago, WeTHRIVE! began working with Taylor High School students as part of a tobacco grant from the Ohio Department of Health. Our health educators partnered with PreventionFIRST! staff to work directly with students in the classroom.
“Being able to bring PreventionFIRST! on board really made a difference,” said Dominique Walker, health educator with Hamilton County Public Health. “We were able to do more than just teach about the dangers of tobacco. The students got the training, technical assistance, and support to become the tobacco experts in their own community.”
“Initially, we worked with the high school students, guiding them through creating and implementing an afterschool program for elementary school students,” said Christi Valentini-Lackner, director of prevention action at PreventionFIRST! Why train teenagers to be the tobacco prevention experts? “We have a lot of data that shows that’s the most effective way to reach youth,” said Raelyn Reynolds, program coordinator at PreventionFIRST! “With peer to peer, there’s more buy in and they get it.”
Next, the students’ efforts focused on policy. Again, PreventionFIRST! and WeTHRIVE! worked together, guiding the teens through the process of taking their case to the Three Rivers school board and the village councils of North Bend and Addyston. As a result, the district adopted a 100 percent tobacco-free policy. North Bend and Addyston, both WeTHRIVE! communities, passed ordinances making public spaces tobacco-free (read the story).
Merging community wellness with substance use
The partnership in Three Rivers has continued to bloom and now Raelyn is a member of the district’s wellness team. “I came into Three Rivers for the substance use piece, but Dominique was also working on the district’s wellness team,” Raelyn said. “She brought me in on that and now I get to sit in on that team and learn about what they’re working on in terms of the whole wellness of the community.”
While PreventionFIRST! is focused on substance use, they recognize that overall wellness is vital to prevention. “We always talk about if our students’ basic needs aren’t being met, that those risk factors can lead to substance use,” Christi said. “And WeTHRIVE! is all about building those protective factors and creating healthy communities and that really fits in nicely with our work.”
“You really have to focus on personal health, mental health, and wellness before you can address those other substance use related risky behaviors,” Raelyn said. “Our partnership with WeTHRIVE! is great because I get a lot of information from Dominique that I’m not super well-versed in and she always comes to me for any substance use stuff. We’re able to bounce our knowledge and expertise off each other.”
Partnering for data
Every two years, PreventionFIRST! administers the Student Drug Use Survey, which provides the most current and reliable source of validated information on youth substance abuse in the area. School participation is voluntary and WeTHRIVE! encourages our school districts to take part. This helps PreventionFIRST! get more schools involved. It also benefits WeTHRIVE! because school wellness teams are able to access survey results for their school. This data on alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and prescription drug use helps WeTHRIVE! teams decide where to focus their efforts when it comes to substance use.
In addition to training and technical support, PreventionFIRST! provides grants to communities through its Center for Community Engagement (CCE). Becca Stowe, director of health promotion and education for Hamilton County Public Health, is a member of the CCE leadership team. “The relationships we have with our WeTHRIVE! communities can help with PreventionFIRST!’s capacity building,” Becca said. “And in turn, we can connect our communities with PreventionFIRST! for potential funding to address their specific substance use issues.”
“Overall, it’s just a really nice collaboration back and forth between WeTHRIVE! and PreventionFIRST!” Christi said. “It also helps that everybody at WeTHRIVE! is fantastic to work with – I want that on the record … The work we do is all braided so closely, it’s hard to pull apart.”
Pictured above: Abby Beausir, Meridith Anness, and Raelyn Reynolds of PreventionFIRST!