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Unicoi County Prevention Coalition – What is a prevention coalition?

By Christy Smith

Let me introduce myself. My name is Christy Smith and I am director of UC Prevention Coalition on Substance Abuse. I am a certified prevention specialist with the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. I know that is a mouth full of words, so let me clarify what a coalition is.

Within Tennessee, there are 46 anti-drug coalitions that work within their counties to reduce dependence on substances such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and tobacco.

We focus on education and prevention among youth ages 12-17 years of age and the whole community. We are a learning institution.

A coalition has at least 12 organizations within its membership: state-local government, police departments, youth serving organizations, schools, youth, media, parents, civic, religious, treatment providers, and local businesses. Partnerships are key to a healthy coalition.

We educate youth from Head Start to high school on the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. We show evidence and stress how these substances affect their overall physical, mental, social, and emotional health.

We provide education to adults through community health fairs, parenting classes, and forums. We want parents to proactively be involved in their children’s lives.

The coalition relies upon its volunteers and members to help change community norms and culture. We work together to educate … educate … educate! Citizens must become aware of the issues within the community in order for the community to become healthier.

If you would like more information on the coalition, call 735-8407. Anyone in the community can stop by the office at 105 Rock Creek Road, Suite. 4 anytime to talk with the director.

The coalition meetings this year are from noon to 1 p.m. on May 14, Aug. 13, Oct. 15, and Dec. 10 at our office. Everyone is welcomed.

I always say: Talk to your kids about substance abuse. They will listen. The more you are actively involved in your kid’s life, the less likely they will try alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.