In July 2012, a representative of Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center contacted the staff of Live Well Winona, a Winona based non-profit organization that serves as a community health hub. The representative was a substance abuse counselor who had seen many cases of young people deeply affected by substance use, and who wanted to develop and implement a community-wide preventative approach to reduce and prevent youth substance use.
Through a series of meetings organized and facilitated by Live Well Winona, the concept of a community based coalition to serve as a catalyst for reducing local substance abuse problems was introduced and explained to key stakeholders, who endorsed the public health model and the creation of the coalition: Winona County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP).
Soon after, committees were formed to research and approach local data sources, available community resources, and evidence-based strategies. We received a mini-grant from the Minnesota Youth Council, and additional financial contributions from key stakeholders to host viewings of the youth-made documentary, State of Using. Several showings took place at high schools in Winona and Lewiston, and included a panel discussion following the documentary to facilitate community conversation around substance use among our youth.
As momentum and dialogue increased, the coalition looked for greater opportunities to grow capacity around the initiative, and applied for the Drug-Free Community (DFC) Support Program. On September 4, 2015, ASAP was awarded a 5-year federal grant totaling $532,974, requiring an equal match of in-kind volunteer time, space, and materials. With your help, we will continue to grow our efforts, through educating the community and supporting our youth by promoting a healthy drug-free culture.