Cannon County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition is one of our newer coalitions. I wanted to ask Director Glenn Steakley and Event Co-ordinator Pam Steakley about their experiences and motivations.
What made you want to get involved in coalition work?
After serving as County Commissioner and serving on the County Audit & Budget Committees, I began to realize that substance abuse and mental health issues in our community were costing a unsurmountable amount of citizen tax dollars. Couple that with my being appointed by the Commission to be the liaison between the county and the Nashville attorneys handling the nation-wide lawsuit, and having a beloved cousin to die from an overdose, I began to feel a calling. But what could I do? I then had a chance meeting with a couple good folks from TN MH&SAS who told me if I really wanted to help our community, start a coalition in Cannon County. After I began telling citizens and support groups what I was considering, I told my wife and she wanted to be a part of it. This would not have been possible without her help and support.
What is the biggest challenge of starting a coalition?
The biggest challenge was researching what would be required and what obstacles we would face during the process. While other coalitions were eager to help, all approached the objectives differently. We had to benchmark the other coalitions, then mold the good things they were doing to fit our effort. The Tennessee National Guard Counter Drug Task Force has been there the entire way. They are a treasure trove of information and guidance. Equally challenging is finding volunteers that really want to be a part of and fully support the coalition. This is due to the stigma that is attached to substance misuse. Most people do not understand the circumstances surrounding the life of being a drug user and the impact it has on their family and community.
What if your favorite part of coalition work?
Knowing that our efforts are actually helping our community by collecting expired and unused prescription drugs, and giving away prescription lock boxes to those that care enough to take steps to prevent being an ‘unintended drug dealer’. Also, it’s exciting being able to meet great people from all walks of life that have the same goals and who support your effort.
What would you like to tell someone looking to start a coalition?
Understand that there is a lot of work ahead of you and you need to realize small accomplishments. “Turning a ship is slow at best.” Find someone that can seek the appropriate grants that are available and someone who will write the grants. There will be people who want to help…let them…delegate everything you can to free yourself up for the things they can’t do. Be prepared to see hope in the eyes of those that are reaching out and seeking help. Remember, you are ‘pioneering’ a needed effort that no one has done in your community. And… no other community is exactly like yours!
Any other thoughts, comments, pointers you would like to add.
Document what you do as you do it. You won’t remember details if you don’t. Documentation shows you what works and what doesn’t. It shows you how to improve your effort. Get some good volunteers behind you so you can delegate and not wear down. Stay focused on the big picture. You’re planting seeds in an attempt to change a culture. Don’t give up!