Drug-Free MHC held its May meeting on Zoom with a guest speaker: Michael Scott, senior program director for the Center for Black Health and Equity.
Piedmont Community Services Prevention Officer Bonnie Favero introduced the meeting’s guest speaker. “He did a training for us a few months ago and it was very informative about the tobacco industry and especially the focus on African Americans,” Favero said. “We are very happy to have him back here today…To give us training so that we can do more to focus on smoking in our community.
As Scott set up his PowerPoint, Gina Roberts, Regional Coordinator responsible for the Virginia Tobacco Control program, said, “We are really excited to get this whole part of the project started. I think that will be essential to really bring your coalition together.
Scott said the focus of his presentation was going to be coalition readiness. “Building and sustaining this coalition and…making sure we have the right people in the coalition to do what we need, done,” he added.
People also read…
He highlighted the coalition’s policy work around changing “no smoking laws” around workplaces, faith-based institutions and shops, but said: “It’s probably going to be months or even years before that does not happen officially, but there will be preparation; there is going to have to be community support.
“When we talk about the successes we’ve seen using these community coalitions, we look back to Philadelphia…Where the big tobaccos introduced these new flavored menthol cigarettes, it was at the community level that people got involved. got together and said ‘You know what, we don’t want this in our communities’ and they managed to push back,” Scott said.
Scott said he wants the Drug-Free MHC coalition to be strong so that they are able to do the same things that have been seen elsewhere so that they can block efforts to “allow these products to be predominately Afro-American”. neighborhoods, predominantly low-income neighborhoods, predominantly LGBT communities.
Scott said the purpose and objective was to discuss the virtues of coalitions and partnerships in the process of advocating for menthol and flavor restriction policies. For a community to do this, they must form a coalition (which MHC has already done), plan for change and advocate for minty flavor restrictions, implement the change plan, and then continue to maintain and to support the coalition.
Its recommended steps for planning these changes for coalitions to make are: Assess the issue and its impact on the community Identify evidence-based strategies and activities Determine allies and supporters Determine capacity and the willingness of the coalition to effect change and to ensure that the focus is on the community level.
Scott added that having fair policies is a key factor when working within a coalition. “When the center talks about fair policies, some of our deal breakers are that if we’re going to do a menthol restriction, there can’t be an exemption. We can’t say “all stores except adult-only stores”.
Scott asked the group of attendees to list some of the people in the community who could potentially be connections to help support the coalition’s efforts. In the chat box, Alt suggested “those in public schools,” Favero suggested “fraternity members,” Pamela Chitwood of the Virginia Department of Health said “community health workers,” and “school systems. and Kenny Muse of the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force suggested “coaches.”
He also listed other people who can be of great help in this situation as leaders of religious institutions, barber and beauty salons and owners of places where people gather. “You have people from all income and education classes coming” to these different places, Scott added.
Also at the meeting, Va. Cooperative Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent in Patrick County Terri Alt announced an opioid-focused addiction conference next Thursday at the historic Virginia campus of Patrick and Henry Community College. The aim of the conference is to increase awareness and reduce stigma and the plan is to hold this conference every two years which was interrupted by COVID but will now resume.
The conference is a full day with six speakers who will cover a wide range of topics related to substance use disorders, various treatments and actions a community can take.
Monique Holland is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at [email protected] or 276-734-9603.