Recognizing the limited level of coordination and sharing among various substance use prevention providers and funding streams, Network180, Kent County’s designated Coordinating Agency of Mental Health and Substance Services, began a process to build capacity and coordination within the county on substance abuse prevention related issues. Seeking to implement data-driven, outcome-based planning to guide allocation of prevention dollars and to strengthen the planning for prevention resources across Kent County, Network180 in partnership with Steelcase Foundation, Heart of West Michigan United Way and Grand Rapids Community Foundation invested in the Applied Pathways planning process. Consultants Community Systems Investments International (CSII) developed the Applied Pathway process, which mirrors the Strategic Prevention Framework (Spf/Sig). The process focuses on community strategic planning with an emphasis on developing prevention systems that will promote wellness and strong communities.

After conducting a series of community interviews and forums to determine the community’s readiness to move forward in the development of a coordinated prevention system, nearly 20 representatives of various Kent County community sectors assembled to embark on a path to develop a county-wide coalition to address substance abuse and its related consequences. The newly formed Kent County Prevention Coalition (KCPC) began implementing the Applied Pathway process in the spring of 2006; and developed a five-year strategic plan by year end. Beginning the Applied Pathways process, the Coalition adopted the following: Mission: Promote a healthier community by preventing and reducing harmful substance use behavior in Kent County, with a major focus on youth; and Vision:A healthier community for all served by a substance abuse prevention system that fills gaps in services, prioritizes resources and funds, and reduces overlap.

Focus on Prevention

The goal was to focus the community’s existing work in prevention where there was the greatest need. The Coalition wanted to learn what resources our community had, what substances were creating the most negative impact on our community, and how to leverage our resources most strategically to work against that negative impact and in turn create a healthier community. We studied the available data carefully and selected the following target areas:

  • Reduction of youth alcohol and its related consequences
  • Reduction of adult heavy drinking and its related consequences
  • Reduction of youth marijuana use and its related consequences

Carrying out the mission, the coalition began crafting the policies and procedures needed to create and sustain an organized, connected, strategic and inclusive substance abuse prevention system throughout Kent County by: Holding the system accountable to outcomes; Implementing a data driven process; including diverse community participants throughout the process; making collaborative/shared decisions; providing culturally competent prevention services; and utilizing flexible and coordinated resources.

The evolution of the KCPC has focused on addressing emerging community issues and structural needs of the coalition; such as: (1) incorporation of various Ad-hoc and Sub-Committees (e.g. development of a 5 county Regional Planning Coalition including Kent, Allegan, Berrien, Ottawa and Muskegon Counties, Minors in Possession, Red Ribbon, and Finance & Sustainability Ad-hoc’s; Faith Community Partnerships for Change and Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol Sub-Committees) and (2) leadership and volunteer transition with an emphasis on re-commitment and re-engagement of community stakeholders.

Current Challenges

Although we have made tremendous strides to empower and foster change to impact community level conditions, challenges exists in the following areas: sustainable recruitment and engagement of youth volunteers, collection of data that culturally represents our community, and translation services (to at least meet the needs of our fastest growing Hispanic population).  In an organized effort to build capacity, coordination and reduction in the duplication of services the former ATOD Partnership merged its membership into a more structured, formalized, sustainable, policy driven entity, namely the Kent County Prevention Coalition.