Braidwood Coalition a Blue Ribbon winner

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE TO BRAIDWOOD — BAHCC President Chad Klover (from left), Past RAD Youth Group President Tori Loomis, and BAHCC DFC Program Director Pete Dell’Aquila were present in Washington, D.C. this week to receive the coalition’s Blue Ribbon Award from the White House at the National Youth Substance Use Prevention Summit. Photo provided.

Marney Simon

Members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition (BAHCC) celebrated a milestone event on Monday, standing alongside members of other coalitions from across the country to receive a Blue Ribbon Award from the White House at the National Youth Substance Use Prevention Summit.

Coalition members traveled to Washington, D.C. on Oct. 30 for the recognition, which honored the BAHCC’s outstanding work to prevent youth substance use and ensure young people can lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

“It means we’ve achieved measurable success in community-level substance misuse related outcomes by implementing a comprehensive and feasible plan guided by local data. So, in other words, we were able to prove with some data that we have some successes from our [programs], which can be kind of hard to do,” BAHCC president Chad Klover said during the coalition’s regular meeting in October. “This does a couple of things for us. For one, we can put on our communications that we send out that we are a Blue Ribbon Coalition, so that’s a good thing. We can use it on other grant applications. And, it’s just good.”

BAHCC program director Pete Dell’Aquila explained further why the designation as a Blue Ribbon Coalition is representative of just how much work members have put into the organization and how it positively affects the community.

“Why it’s hard is, in the field of prevention, it’s very hard to prove that you prevented something from happening,” Dell’Aquila said. “So, we’ve been tracking our youth data since 2008 though our schools. We’ve seen data ebb and flow, but since we’ve had the Drug Free Communities grant, we’ve seen a steady decrease in some of the areas that we’ve been targeting, and we were able to show that.

“There were nine other coalitions that attended the Graduate Coalition Academy, and I think three or four of the coalitions that attended were actually able to apply for the Blue Ribbon application,” he continued. “That is an advanced academy, so, it is not every coalition that is able to show outcomes. I chalk that up to the work that we’re doing in the schools and within the community.”

Dell’Aquila also noted that the successes of the BAHCC wouldn’t be possible without strong youth leadership within Reed-Custer Against Drugs (RAD) youth group at RCHS, both past and present, noting that RAD representation means “meeting kids where they’re at.”

This fall, the BAHCC also earned five additional years of a federal Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant.

“Drug-Free Community Coalitions are an essential part of our whole-of-society efforts to address the overdose epidemic and save lives,” said White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta. “The Biden-Harris Administration has made supporting the nation’s youth and their well-being a top priority, and made historic investments to strengthen substance use prevention. I am grateful to the Blue Ribbon Coalitions awardees, like the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition, who are leading the way in expanding critical evidence-based prevention efforts and addressing youth substance use so that all young Americans can live healthy and fulfilling lives.”

The BAHCC was one of 15 Drug-Free Community Coalitions from across the country receiving a Blue Ribbon Award.

The Blue Ribbon Coalition Award recognizes high performing coalitions that do an exceptional job creating a foundation for their work by updating and utilizing their coalition products.

The award is a two-year recognition that opens new doors for coalitions to share their work and become a role model in the prevention field.

In recognition of National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month, the White House hosted a bipartisan summit on Monday to bring together youth leaders, community-based coalitions, and federal partners to discuss efforts to expand evidence-based prevention and ensure local communities have the tools and resources they need to prevent youth substance use and save lives.

President Biden declared October as National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month to recommit to providing families, educators, and communities with access to lifesaving resources to ensure that young people have the tools they need to thrive.

The BAHCC operates on grant funding, donations and volunteer work to achieve the coalition’s objectives of recruitment, retention, increasing youth involvement, sustainability plans, and increasing local resources for substance abuse prevention.

The coalition is the recipient of a second five-year federal Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant. DFC grants, created by the Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997, help fund efforts to mobilize communities to prevent youth substance use. Grants are awarded to community-based coalitions to address youth substance use and support the National Drug Control Strategy by implementing evidence-based prevention locally.

In addition to providing community resources, the BAHCC also hosts a community garden outside its center on Reed Street, sponsors students who attend the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute, sponsors weekly SMART recovery meetings, and holds workshops on mental health with community partners including 515 Fitness from Coal City.

The coalition also works with the Will County Rapid Response Team to distribute Narcan to local community, supports the Text-A-Tip line in partnership with the Wilmington Coalition, and hosts the bi-annual drug takeback event, among other community activities.

The coalition holds its meetings on the second Monday of each month.

More information on the BAHCC can be found on their Facebook page.