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2012 Town Hall Meeting Makes a Big “MOOV” to Success—Omak, Washington

2012 Town Hall Meeting Makes a Big “MOOV”to Success—Omak, Washington

Most of Okanogan ValleyOmak, Washington, is a small town of fewer than 5,000 residents, where unemployment and poverty are common. According to Megan Azzano, who directs the Omak-based Okanogan County Community Coalition, many families are reluctant to attend a meeting on underage drinking and drug use because they feel it reflects badly on their children and families. So it is a little surprising and very impressive that the coalition’s 2012 underage drinking prevention Town Hall Meeting attracted nearly 600 participants—or about 1 out of 8 community members. Azzano attributes this phenomenal turnout to careful planning, youth engagement, and creative audience inducements.

In 2012, the Coalition’s Town Hall Meeting supported the statewide Let’s Draw the Line Between Youth and Alcohol campaign. This campaign emphasizes the role of parents and other adults in keeping children and teens away from alcohol and the legal consequences for adults who enable underage drinking. The event also was designed to launch MOOV (Most of Okanogan Valley), a positive norms campaign endorsed by the Omak City Council and supported by community institutions and local businesses. The MOOVmessage is that most youth and adults in the area engage in healthy behaviors. Youth involved with the Omak Street Team received city approval to engage in guerilla-marketing techniques to promote the Town Hall Meeting and the new MOOV campaign. (Guerilla marketing is a technique that relies on creativity, energy, and unconventional methods rather than a large budget to reach an audience.) Local businesses and city buildings were soon covered with MOOV stencils, stickers, and posters. This approach and the strategic involvement of community partners ensured effective Town Hall promotion, all of which resulted in a total publicity expenditure of $69.

The coalition complemented broad-base promotion with audience attractions. Prior to the Town Hall Meeting, the coalition conducted a survey about local attitudes about social host ordinances. Respondents also were asked to sign and return a Let’s Draw the Line pledge card, which the coalition would use during the event to raffle off gift certificates for local goods. The event’s planning group, however, knew that something special was needed to encourage attendance. The group asked themselves what could make Omak youth and their families actually wantto attend. The answer: affordable (i.e., free) entertainment. Thus, Reptile Man and his collection of creepy crawlies and other wild beasts, which had just the kind of affordable drawing power the coalition was seeking, was engaged.

Another part of Omak’s winning plan was to piggyback two Town Hall Meetings, separately hosted by the coalition and by the Omak School District, into a seamless evening of education, entertainment, and community celebration of prevention progress. The school district’s program centered on student “Slick Tracy” poster presentations adapted from Project Northland materials. (Project Northland is an evidence-based program designed to delay and reduce alcohol use among adolescents.) Slick Tracy brought youth and proud parents to the school district’s program; they stayed and were joined by many others interested in hearing the latest, highly exciting findings from the state’s Healthy Youth Survey. As Azzano observes, “Most people are glad to give up the nightly bad news on television in order to get some good news about their own kids.”

And good news it was. Between 2002 and 2012, Okanogan County has seen remarkable reductions in underage drinking, as shown below:

Underage Drinking Rates, 2002–2012,
Okanogan County, Washington






  8th grade, current use




  8th grade, binge drinking




  10th grade, current use




  10th grade, binge drinking




  12th grade, current use




  12th grade, binge drinking




Azzano attributes Omak’s enviable progress to what she describes as the coalition’s “three-legged prevention stool,” composed of environmental strategies, direct services, and one-time events. The Town Hall Meetings have been a key strategy for several years. Says Azzano, “They create visibility for our organization and let the community know about the array of services we offer. They build our membership and attract donors and volunteers. They mobilize citizen support for our campaigns and our environmental policy agenda.” The coalition is planning its next event for spring 2014.

Event Images

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