New drug coalition sets sights on its mission

Bill Rebholz, one of the coalition’s founders, speaks to the group at Monday’s meeting at the Monroe County YMCA. (Robyn Dexter photo)

The coalition that has been working to fix the county’s problems with substance abuse settled on a name and approved official mission and vision statements as well.

In the third meeting since the coalition formed in November, group members met at the Monroe County YMCA late Monday afternoon to take the next steps to helping the community.

The coalition, now formally named the Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities, talked about coming up with a logo, assessing school survey data and preparing to establish leadership roles.

The group discussed the possibility of hosting a countywide school contest to design a logo for the coalition.
Regional Superintendent Kelton Davis said he would talk to the schools about getting this contest started.

Davis gave a presentation on gathering school-wide data about the prevalence of substance abuse in the community. He has been pulling data and research from the Center For Prevention Research and Development out of University of Illinois, and talked to the group about his discoveries.

Davis said having this data would be able to reveal the answers to several questions including: Does the county have a problem? What is the magnitude and how does it affect the county? What should the group target? Does it work?

Students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 already take a survey called the Illinois Youth Survey. Davis said this survey is important because it hits after students go through the D.A.R.E. program, and researchers are able to gauge whether or not students stay smart and healthy after the program itself.

“They’ve been conducting this survey since 1993,” he said. “The general focus is on alcohol, tobacco, illegal and prescription drug use, along with beliefs about drugs.”

The big thing Davis said he discovered was that questions can be added to the survey.

“We need to assess whether or not the survey is asking the questions we want the answers to,” he said. “What I’ve read so far has been shocking.”

Davis challenged the group to take inventory on the data Monroe County has available, along with figuring out what data the coalition wants to collect.

“Knowing what we want to know will guide us in this,” he said. “It will guide the activities of this group and help us focus.”

The group approved both its mission and vision statements. The mission statement is as follows: “The mission of the Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities is to reduce substance abuse in Monroe County through collaboration among community partners targeting community conditions that contribute to substance abuse.”

The vision statement is as follows: “The vision of the Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities is that each of our communities supports the wellness and safety of every one of its members by eliminating the abuse of drugs and alcohol.”

Monroe County Coroner Vicki Koerber announced that her office is bringing in a set of speakers to give a presentation on Tuesday, Feb. 4, including a Drug Enforcement Administration agent from the Fairview Heights-O’Fallon area, task force members and attorneys to talk about the prevalence of prescription drugs in the county.

Koerber said she is expecting the presentation to be well attended and is looking for a larger venue to host the event.

The coalition’s next meeting will be at 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, at the YMCA.

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