Quality training and technical assistance can play a pivotal role in helping substance misuse prevention coalitions access the critical information and skills they need to implement effective and sustainable prevention efforts.
Coalitions often turn to the prevention experts for one-time presentations or trainings on emerging substance use trends, or to support the implementation of a specific program.
But coalitions also benefit from ongoing, one-on-one supports to build more general prevention capacities in areas such as strategic planning or collaborating with new partners. In these cases, technical assistance providers serve less as experts and more as partners, working with coalition leadership to troubleshoot problems, identify creative solutions, and provide a sounding board for new ideas.
Over the past 18 months, PS@EDC’s Jess Goldberg has forged such a partnership with the Braintree Community Partnership on Substance Use in Braintree, MA. Since November 2018, Goldberg has worked with the coalition on a range of projects, both large and small.
“Having the chance to work together over time has been both fun and rewarding. The more time I spend with the coalition, the more helpful I become,” says Goldberg.
Goldberg started out by working with Braintree’s coalition coordinator to review the coalition’s youth survey, administered bi-annually to the town’s high school students. The coalition had spent time prioritizing the substance use problems it planned to address and wanted to make sure that the survey captured data about student behaviors related to those problems.
“[LynFrano], the coalition coordinator, is a seasoned prevention practitioner but not an expert in evaluation,” says Goldberg. “We worked together to articulate the questions we wanted to ask of the evaluator who had been brought on to advise the process.”
Goldberg also strategized with Frano ways to build support among key stakeholders in the school system to implement the modified survey. According to Goldberg, this work focused on articulating the value of prevention.
“Schools are enormously busy places and administrators face a lot of competing demands on classroom time. Lyn and I worked together to craft a strong case for why it was important to use some of this time to better understand students’ substance use and related behaviors.”
As new needs arose, Goldberg was available to respond. She reviewed coalition presentations for members of Braintree’s faith community and brought her expertise in instructional design and adult learn theory to inform the development of an orientation manual and training for new coalition members.
Since the onset of COVID, Goldberg has also worked closely with Frano to engage Partnership staff, coalition members, and community partners in a virtual strategic planning process. What was the best ways to collect input? Facilitate a productive discussion? Make sure everyone is heard?
“Strategic planning is only successful when it reflects a truly collaborative process, so we needed to figure out how to replicate the process in a virtual environment,” says Goldberg.
Goldberg looks forward to continuing to work with Braintree as they enter their new fiscal year.
“Prevention coordinators are often lone operators in their communities, without anyone else with a strong prevention background to ask for feedback. I bring knowledge of prevention science, but I can also provide a second “set of eyes” on new materials, or a fresh perspective on coalition efforts.”
To learn about PS@EDC’s work in Braintree, contact Shannon Cassidy at Scassidy@edc.org.