by Jonathan Weaver
How community leaders and concerned parents reach out to youth and the community regarding the local drug epidemic could change in 2017.
More than 30 elected officials, church leaders and other supporters conducted a SWOT analysis of Armstrong-Indiana Drug Free Community Coalition efforts to curb alcohol and drug use yesterday morning.
Pitt School of Pharmacy Research Specialists Laken Ethun and Ali Burrell work specifically at the Pennsylvania Heroin Overdose Prevention Technical Assistance Center (TAC) and asked groups of five people to evaluate the commission’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Ethun, who achieved a master’s degree in public health from the university and asked the groups to be specific but creative, has worked at the TAC since the organization formed about a year ago.
“We work with a lot of coalitions who work specifically to address overdose in their counties,” Ethun said. “Multiple strategies need to implemented across the county to ensure that not only are the strategies effective, but that they’re reaching the maximum amount of people. There is not one simple solution to the problem so we try to engage stakeholders from both public health and public safety to ensure that we’re hitting as many people as we can.”
While many of the small groups felt there were many community events and organizations aware of the regional epidemic, some emphasized a lack of action or “feet on the street.”
Ethun and Burrell have also worked with the Indiana County Overdose Task Force, Drug and Alcohol Commission Deputy Director Carrie Bence confirmed.
A SWOT analysis for that group has allowed for internal evaluation and allowed leaders to now pursue grants and provide sensitivity training, Bence said.
Through information from local hospitals, emergency medical responders (such as Citizens Ambulance and Ford City EMS) and county coroners (including Armstrong coroner Brian Myers), overdose statistics have been uploaded onto the Overdose Free Pennsylvania website.
The task force has been meeting for about a year, and Bence hoped to have Overdose Task Force meetings after the Drug Free Communities Coalition meetings soon.
“We don’t want to confuse everybody from the get-go,” Bence said. “It’s almost a smaller committee of the (coalition) more focused on overdose prevention and the key leaders in the community that can contribute.”
Bence said the SWOT analysis helped drive the Overdose Task Force, and she hoped it would do the same with the Drug Free Communities Coalition. She agreed with many of the group suggestions and feedback.
Prevention Specialist Jennifer McCrosky showed that officials actively give out information at community events and online through social media, educate high school and collegiate students and take part in several trainings per year to enhance skills.
By next month’s meeting, members were also tasked with getting information for at least three community resources coalition leaders can compile into a possible online resource guide.