RGPP reviews community readiness to address substance use

RIO GRANDE COUNTY-The Rio Grande Prevention Partners (RGPP) community coalition met via Zoom for their monthly meeting Tuesday, May 5. Dr. Jenny Cureton, consultant with the SLV Prevention Coalition Network and Assistant Professor at Kent State University, presented on the findings of the fall 2019 Community Readiness Model (CRM) re-assessment and compared those results to the SLV’s initial results from the 2016 CRM assessment.

The CRM seeks to assess the community’s readiness for change on the issue of “the use of tobacco, marijuana and other substances” with the community defined as Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Rio Grande and Saguache counties. The CRM assessment looked at five dimensions of readiness: “knowledge of efforts (how much the community knows about current efforts to address the issue), leadership (leadership’s attitude toward addressing the issue), community climate (the community’s attitude toward addressing the issue), knowledge of issue (how much the community knows about the issue) and resources (currently used or available).”

The stages of readiness are rated on a one through nine scale. One is “no awareness,” two is “denial/resistance,” three is “vague awareness,” four is “preplanning,” five is “preparation,” six is “initiation,” seven is “stabilization,” eight is “expansion/ confirmation” and the highest stage, nine, is “community ownership.” Six key respondents from each of the five counties were selected for interviews for the re-assessment, with the respondents representing relevant sectors like education, health/medical, social services, law and government, faith and at-large. All respondents were adults because the interview, transcription and assessment processes do not accommodate the additional privacy requirements mandatory for youth.

None of the counties included scored higher than the “preparation” stage in overall readiness with some counties slightly decreasing in readiness from 2016. Alamosa county scored 5.2 in overall readiness over 4.5 in 2016, Conejos scored an even five compared to 4.3 in 2016, Costilla scored 4.4 compared to 4.7 in 2016, Rio Grande scored 4.5 compared to 4.7 in 2016, Saguache scored 4.5 compared to 4.6 in 2016 and overall the region scored 4.7 compared to 4.5 in 2016. Cureton encouraged the attendees not to focus on the fractions of a point as much as the main number.
In Rio Grande County, the “knowledge of efforts” dimension scored a 3.9 in both 2016 and 2019, “leadership” decreased from 5.5 in 2016 to 4.6 in 2019, “community climate” also decreased from 5.5 in 2016 to 4.2 in 2019, “knowledge of issue” increased from 4.3 in 2016 to 5.4 in 2019 and the “resources” dimension increased from 4.1 to 4.3.

Cureton led the organization in reviewing the goals they set after reviewing the 2016 CRM results and how those were improved or could be addressed differently. The first goal set by the RGPP Coalition after reviewing the 2016 assessment “To increase the knowledge of substance use prevention efforts within Rio Grande County” was designed to focus on the “knowledge of efforts dimension” with that dimension scoring the same three years later. RGPP’s second goal, “To increase collaborative involvement between Rio Grande community members and experts to address substance use prevention and treatment” was designated to address the “resources” dimension, which did score with a slight increase. RGPP’s third goal, “To increase knowledge in Rio Grande County about the prevalence of substance use and its impacts on individuals and the community” was designed to address the “knowledge of issue” dimension, which showed the most improvement, jumping from 4.3 to 5.4. RGPP’s fourth goal “To increase knowledge about substance use among Rio Grande County Youth” also focused on the “knowledge of issue” dimension.

Cureton and Rio Grande County Public Health Prevention Coordinator and RGPP facilitator Nancy Molina lead the attendees in a discussion about how to modify these goals. Cureton encouraged the attendees to focus on goals that address the lowest scoring dimensions, “knowledge of efforts,” “community climate” and “resources.” Cureton asked what the coalition members are most proud of with their prevention efforts, with Molina stating “the youth involvement component” citing the many ways RGPP has been structured to better involve youth empowerment and to use the Positive Youth Development method. Andres Villa, a youth representative from Monte Vista agreed, adding “Youth are the most vulnerable...we need to have a youth perspective.” Ashley Maestas, Labor and Employment Specialist with the Monte Vista Workforce Center, added “There’s engagement from the community...we just need to press forward.”

Cureton asked the attendees to evaluate what information they need to get out to the community to increase community knowledge, with Max Garcia, a youth representative from Del Norte and RGPP youth advocate, stating the community needs to understand prevention work is “planting seeds in a garden you won’t see,” acknowledging keeping community members engaged in such a long-term process is a struggle. Villa added maybe RGPP should keep the time it takes emphasized regularly, with City of Monte Vista Recreation Director Jaime Hurtado adding it could be a good way to get more involvement as well, “The more you get involved, you’ll see faster results.”

Another consultant, Julie Thompson with the OMNI Institution, asked the coalition “What are the consistent messages you want to share about health/wellness no matter what the substance is in your community?” Rio Grande County Public Health Nurse Paul Wertz suggesting promoting the positives in the community like the youth involvement. Villa added the coalition needs to explore more ways to provide recreation activities and similar opportunities that do not have many barriers to access for community members, like cost or traveling, which fits into one of RGPP’s strategies of increasing youth spaces. Molina added to emphasize the importance of the coalition and maintaining membership from a variety of sectors because prevention funds often comes with strings attached but “...finding the right, dedicated people” can help design creative ways to meet those goals. Cureton agreed to focus on a “quality over quantity” approach, and to stay consistently getting out positive messages from every event.

Going forward, Cureton encouraged attendees to remember “readiness is complex” and to adjust goals using the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Cureton also encouraged the coalition to diversify advertising and include evaluation results as success stories. To increase the community climate, Cureton encouraged conducting regular surveys and ending all communications with a call to action.

RGPP takes on health equity
With the assistance of Isaac Grody-Patinkin with Silverthread Public Health, the coalition has also decided to move forward with addressing matters of health equity, especially relevant in rural communities and communities with people of color. At the May 5 meeting the attendees reviewed the definition of equity and what achieving health equity will address, including “environmental justice, creating systems where everyone can thrive, health and transforming the built environment, as well as our institutions and systems.”

Attendees watched a video produced by The New York Times where Hispanic people discussed their variety of identities, how they formed ideas about those identities through life experiences, and how they encountered assumptions about those identities in everyday life.

Coalition attendees discussed their takeaways from the video, with Villa discussing the language barriers and resulting struggles he and his parents have experienced, as his parents only speak Spanish and he has sometimes struggled with how to translate concepts to them. Edith Arias, Labor and Employment Specialist Intern with the Alamosa Workforce Center, pointed out how it encouraged her to reflect, especially on Cinco de Mayo, about how cultures are appropriated differently but how often they are used for American celebrations without context. Hurtado discussed the stigma he experienced when he was younger, as he moved to the U.S. at the age of 15 and received a lot of negative feedback and stereotypes for speaking Spanish and as a result has not taught his youngest child any Spanish, but his child has experienced prejudice anyway, concluding “Learn to be you, no matter what...pass on how to make a difference.” Villa pointed out this conflict, “Labels are detrimental, but removing them also strips away identity.” RGPP Youth Advocate and Monte Vista student Kayla Hernandez stated her father is from Mexico and she also knows both languages but she still feels “too white in Mexico [on biannual visits to family] and too Hispanic in the U.S..” She added “success is not expected” of her because of her race, and despite her father being apparently hardworking and having two jobs herself she still faces prejudiced assumptions about having nice possessions, including rumors about her family selling drugs.

Molina pointed out sharing these experiences helps remove barriers and build stronger relationships. Grody-Patinkin added “you have all stated what it means when trying to navigate belonging” and pointed out in the future they will be focusing on how to build the muscle to have real conversations about equity.

RGPP is always accepting new coalition members, especially parents or individuals whose work intersects with youth or presents opportunities for positive youth development. For more information on how you can get involved email [email protected]


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