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Positively Austin

Hosted by: Austin Positive Action Coalition (APAC)

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Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.

APAC hosted a town hall meeting for the community, sharing the work of our coalition and how community members can help our youth make smart and healthy choices when confronted with alcohol and substance use. In addition, we had a nationally known speaker join us to help attendees develop skills in communicating resistance messages. The speaker also underscored the important role attendees play in the development of our youth. Lastly, we kicked off the Bright Spots recognition campaign that will highlight community members who play a positive role in the development of our young people.

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How does underage drinking and substance misuse affect your community?

Unfortunately, we have seen issues related to alcohol and substance use in our community in recent years. In 2013, marijuana and mental health were identified as top community concerns. In 2014, e-cigarettes became another rising concern (which escalated to vaping over the next few years, despite the decline in tobacco use). In 2016, student survey data from our schools and the Austin Drug Task Force (ADTF) showed troublesome trends related to alcohol use and misuse. Since 2016, we also saw a rise in the use of heroin and opiates in the community.

To address these increases in substance use, APAC was created as part of a State of Minnesota grant. We implemented the Positive Community Norms approach to prevention and started working, with the support of our team and a local parent, to organize local forums. Our “Wake Up Austin” forums brought together hundreds of community members and taught them about the impact of substance use as well as prevention strategies. The forums also allowed us to build our partnerships and capacity. In 2021, we received a Drug-Free Communities grant and continued to work with ADTF, the Statewide Health Improvement Program, Mower ReFreshed, schools, and community members to prevent substance use and misuse.

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What goal(s) did you hope to accomplish with your Communities Talk activity?

  • Reduce prevalence of underage drinking and other substances in community
  • Create an ongoing conversation about underage drinking and substance use prevention in the community
  • Foster collaboration between community stakeholders for continued underage drinking and substance use prevention activities
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Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?

The collaborative effort was made possible by a strong community partnership with a local business, which offered discounted rates to house our guest speaker for a week while we presented at schools and within the community. Local organizations also promoted the event. Coalition members played an active role in ensuring that the facility was prepared for the community gathering, and they were there to greet community members upon arrival.

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Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?

  • StopAlcoholAbuse.gov website
  • Communities Talk website
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Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?

Yes. We had concerns about community members attending an in-person event, but we were unable to purchase the necessary equipment to provide a virtual experience and had to rely on our partners to help out. We were able to provide masks and hand sanitizer for the event, though.

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What other challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?

  • Needed additional resources to conduct activity
  • Adapting to conducting a virtual activity
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How did you overcome these challenges?

We were able to partner with local organizations to provide the resources so that we could deliver a virtual experience for those community members who didn’t want to attend in person.

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What are your next steps?

  • Host follow-up meetings or activities
  • Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community
  • Support new prevention policies, legislation, or social ordinances
  • Create a public education campaign to raise awareness and/or change behaviors around underage drinking (i.e., create PSAs and other promotional materials)

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