C.A.R.E. Coalition (Community Awareness Recovery Effort) is a grassroots effort that began at the Transylvania County Regional Hospital in 2010 as a result of healthcare professionals seeing an increasing number of prescription medication overdoses and deaths. The group contacted Project Lazarus, a community-based overdose prevention and safety organization, for guidance to begin duplicating the work that improved these rates immensely in Wilkes County, NC. A forum was held at the local library and volunteer work groups were established. Additional support was provided by the Transylvania County (TC) Public Health Department, as substance abuse has been identified as one of the top three public health priorities in the TC Community Health Improvement Plan.
In 2011, a Coordinator was hired with grant funding received by the TC Health Department from the North Carolina Coalitions Initiative (NCCI). The successful Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) model was used to train the coordinator and coalition members to complete a community assessment, logic model and strategic action plans to address Rx medication abuse and misuse in Transylvania County. In 2013, a Co-coordinator was brought on staff, and assisted the Coalition to prepare a successful Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant proposal to the federal government. The grant award is for five years, September 30, 2014 through September 29, 2019, to provide funding for the Coalition at $125,000 annually, matched 100% by local community resources. The DFC program has two goals: 1) To increase community collaboration, and 2) To reduce youth substance abuse in the areas of underage drinking, Rx pills, and emerging drugs.
Upon completing a community assessment, the coalition determined that underage drinking and prescription medication abuse were the most important substance abuse problems among Transylvania County youths, due to availability and low perception of harm. The mission of the CARE Coalition is, “To reduce substance abuse and underage drinking by convening interested community members in order to facilitate collaboration and coordinate efforts between coalition members and existing local community resources for prevention of underage drinking and substance abuse.” C.A.R.E.’s broad cross-sector collaboration with community stakeholders/partners ensures deep representation and cultural competence for effective environmental change leading to lower substance abuse rates.