As we enter the holiday season it is crucial that we, as Sheridan County, look forward to changes we would like to see in our community in 2019. One way you can contribute to a positive change is through prevention work.
This past year the legislature gave each county money to work on prevention on an individual county level, along with a mandate to hire a community prevention specialist to coordinate those efforts. Sheridan County was given $385,777.00 (based on population) to spend over a two-year period on prevention in the following areas: suicide prevention, underage drinking, adult binge drinking, tobacco cessation and opioids and other drugs.
So what is prevention? Prevention is defined as “the action of stopping something from happening or arising.” Why is this work important? Research shows that prevention has a greater return on investment then most treatment programs. Research also shows that prevention works best with community involvement. Along with the money came a requirement that we, as a county, look at the data and determine where our weakest points are and where we need to direct our efforts.
This is where you, your friends and neighbors come in. Prevention must be a community effort, for it to be effective. Although I will be coordinating the logistics of the priorities we select, it will take all of us to work on these issues and change Sheridan culture for the better. My role as the CPS is NOT to individually make the decision on where our priorities and money should be directed, but to “lead from the shadows” as committed individuals, work groups and coalitions step forward and volunteer their time and energy to help by setting the goals, objectives and strategies we will use to implement direct services, environmental strategies and media campaigns.
Why should you get involved? Because tackling these big issues benefits all of us. Our well-being, and that of our families, increases when we, as a community, bring these topics into the light and work to make real change in Sheridan County. There will be difficult conversations and tough decisions to make regarding priorities and how the money is spent. These are sensitive topics that many of us do not like to discuss in public. But the truth is that ALL OF US have been affected by suicide, alcohol misuse and substance abuse in some form. Whether it has had a direct contact on our person, or we have simply known someone, these are individual, family, and community issues.
In January and February, I will be asking people to work with me to analyze our county data and work on our community strategic prioritization tool and strategic plan. If you are interested in being a part of this work, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-763-9016 (work cell). I am excited to do this work with you. Together, we can make Sheridan County that much better than it already is.
Happy holidays to you and your family,
Ann M. Perkins