What started as a community-wide conversation centered around the concerns of suicide, mental health and substance abuse in the Battle Ground area has now turned into a large group of community members who have decided to do something about these issues. The group is named Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevention Alliance.

“This group is in addition to all of the amazing work being done in the community and (Battle Ground) School District around these issues,” said Sean Chavez, PREVENT! coalition coordinator at Educational Service District (ESD) 112.

Chavez said Battle Ground community members have been talking for a while about a lot of concerning issues like suicide and substance abuse. The PREVENT! coalition, Clark County’s substance abuse prevention coalition, has been around since 2005 and it received a Federal Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant in 2007 and a Drug Free Communities Mentoring grant in 2010. Chavez said the coalition also just received a continuation of the DFC grant in 2012.

“The DFC Mentoring grant allows us to mentor communities in the development of a coalition with the goal of applying for the DFC grant,” Chavez said. “Some of the members of the Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevention Alliance are long-time members of the PREVENT! coalition. When looking for a ‘mentee,’ Battle Ground was examined and found to have the ‘readiness’ to take on the task. We started by gathering a group of individuals from the school district, local nonprofits and service organizations (ROCKSOLID Community Teen Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters), local law enforcement (Battle Ground Police Department) and elected official (Mayor Lisa Walters).”

Chavez said the group agreed to be the official “mentee” and the process began. Over the past eight months, he said the group has developed a new strategic brand (Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevention Alliance) and has gone through multiple local and national training sessions on Prevention Science and Coalition Development.

The county’s PREVENT! coalition is using the money received from the respective grants to help the Battle Ground group apply for its own $500,000 Drug Free Communities grant for 2013. Chavez said they are on schedule to apply in March 2013 and if the grant is awarded to the Battle Ground group, they will be notified in September 2013. However, even if the group doesn’t receive the grant, Chavez said the group’s members are very strong with a desire to be a community coalition regardless of federal funding.

“One of the main goals of the mentor/mentee relationship is to set the foundation so a coalition can exist without funding and apply year after year if needed,” Chavez said. “This grant is extremely competitive and most coalitions have to apply multiple times before being awarded. We are hopeful for funding, but again regardless this group will continue to function as a community coalition dedicated to the reduction and prevention of substance abuse in Battle Ground.”

Chavez said he is happy to report that the Battle Ground prevention group is growing rapidly and they have numerous supporters from across the area. Although the group is still in its developmental stage, he said they do have a Steering Committee, a Coalition Development Group, a Community Group reviewing treatment and recovery, as well as a host of community partners, including medical care, law enforcement, private business, media, school district, youth, service clubs, community volunteers, the faith community and treatment/recovery providers.

According to Chavez, the ultimate goal of the Battle Ground prevention group is a healthy, productive Battle Ground community free from the effects of substance abuse. He said they hope to achieve this goal through a comprehensive approach based on prevention science that will work with the prevention and reduction of substance abuse.

“The main focus at this point is prevention and reduction of substance abuse,” Chavez said. “Substance abuse is a common element in so many different disparities. The group will continue to grow and work in partnership with other community coalitions and organizations that are working to minimize or eliminate these disparities.”

Although this is not a school-based group, Chavez said they still hope to involve students in the process. He said the Battle Ground School District has supported these efforts and is a positive working partner with the group. He also said youth are a critical role and there are open positions for youth to be formally involved with the coalition membership as well as youth organizations as official partners.

“The school district does an outstanding job working on the issues of substance abuse within the walls of the schools,” Chavez said. “This group will support those efforts by working on these issues outside the walls of the school and into the community.”

Nancy Miller, director of ROCKSOLID Community Teen Center and a supporting member of the Battle Ground prevention group, said that ROCKSOLID fits into the prevention program because they give students a safe, drug-free environment to come to everyday after school. Through the staff and dedicated volunteers at ROCKSOLID, Miller said they give the students great mentors to spend time with.

Miller said ROCKSOLID actually formed a group of students who attended the teen center a couple of years ago called R.O.C.K. (Really Outrageous Concerned Kids). She said the focus was to create a “team” of students in the Battle Ground and Hockinson areas that could learn about tobacco, alcohol and drug prevention, as well as suicide prevention. Through that group, ROCKSOLID became involved with different activities with the PREVENT! coalition in Clark County. When Battle Ground formed the new prevention alliance, ROCKSOLID was asked to be a part of it.

Miller said it is her personal goal, as well as the goal of the Prevent Together group, to assess the current situations in the Battle Ground community to determine what issues relating to tobacco, alcohol and drugs possess the biggest risk to our youth and what they can do to get to the root of these issues and help address them.

“I know many issues exist and we really must work together as a community to fix the situation,” Miller said. “This is not an overnight fix. It will take individuals from law enforcement, the schools, churches, health care and the business community in general to determine what the causes of the abuse are and to determine ways to develop solutions. We have those dedicated individuals involved in Prevent Together. I know we will work together to create positive, preventative results.”

Battle Ground Police Chief Bob Richardson said the Battle Ground Police Department is looking forward to working with the Battle Ground Prevention Alliance to improve the lives of community members. Richardson said most people know individuals and families in the community that have been impacted by alcohol and drug addiction, mental health issues and suicides.

“We need to engage our community to identify policies that support prevention, positive community norms and attitudes,” Richardson said. “The Alliance is the mechanism that brings our youth, parents, nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses, schools and governmental agencies together in collaboration to address these issues and provide resources. The long-range goal is to provide a healthy environment where our children and families can live, work and grow. As Ben Franklin once said, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’”

Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevention Alliance has met regularly since summer 2012. If people are interested in being actively involved in the coalition, Chavez said they can contact him at Sean.chavez@esd112.org. He said they are still working to develop a website and Facebook page for community updates. Although there is not a “public coalition” meeting planned for January, Chavez said they do have multiple “work group” meetings planned.

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