I work closely on media outreach programs for a number of Virginia state government agencies. Chesterfield SAFE is a top notch, well organized, and detail-oriented organization. A very active group of coalition members work hard and take great pride in developing solutions that are both cost efficient and effective in communicating with the residents of this community. Chesterfield SAFE truly lives up to the potentially life saving standards implied by their name.
I was previously with a government agency that provided grant funding to community coalitions across the State of Virginia. In this role, I had the opportunity to work with and visit numerous substance abuse prevention coalitions across the state. Many of these organizations were providing valuable services to youth and parents in their communities. However, Substance Abuse Free Environment, Inc. (SAFE) stood out as an exemplary non-profit organization. The coalition engages community partners working collaboratively to effect true, long- lasting community level change through the use of environmental strategies. I was so truly impressed with the staff and the organization's reputation at the federal and state level as evidenced through numerous awards, that I left my state position and am now privileged to be a SAFE staff member serving Chesterfield County and making a difference in my own neighborhood.
I am the local public health director for Chesterfield County where SAFE resides. I came to Central Virginia in 2010 and not much after I began my work with the health department did I hear and learn about the wonderful work this organization has done over the last several years tackling alcohol abuse, drug abuse and inhalant abuse. I joined one SAFE's community task forces in the spring of 2011 aimed at addressing the growing problem of prescription drug abuse. It was through this effort that I came to know the very few but strong, dedicated and visionary members of this organization that have successfully brought public and private partners, government employees and private citizens, healthcare providers, counselors, and host of other professionals to tackle the rapidly expanding "epidemic" of prescription drug abuse. Through three summits, a continuing education summit for healthcare providers, expanding number of prescription take-backs in the community, SAFE and their partners in just one year have already demonstrated marked success in bringing awareness and education about the dangers of prescription drug abuse to this community. SAFE is truly an impressive organization. With a recipe for success based on the development and use of logic models, community partnerships, and the ability to inspire not just their partners but all community members to take action against substance abuse, this small non-profit has had a huge impact in this community.
Chesterfield SAFE has had a big impact on the community with the campaign to educate schools and health care professionals about inhalant abuse in Chesterfield. SAFE is now tackling the growing problem of prescription drug abuse by engaging not only the Chesterfiled community, but surrounding communities. I live in Henrico and work in Richmond, and I have seen firsthand the devastation caused by these issues as a healthcare professional. I applaud SAFE for taking the lead with this grassroots movement to educate in a way that can save lives, especially young lives. I am honored to have been invited to participate in their efforts and to be able to help in some way.
SAFE has accomplished significant inroads in pulling together community partners and county agencies for purposes of identifying needs and gaps in services in addressing substance abusing adolescents. It has provided training on prevention as well as intervention. It has brought together and spearheaded intensive workgroups and summits to address current issues. It is also a very good resource for information.
SAFE is promoting the important message and doing the important work that support members of my profession helping adolescents in the community.
As an elementary school counselor, I found the SAFE presentation to our group informative and enlightening. The information shared opened my eyes not only to the problem of huffing, but also to how easily children can obtain the tools needed to engage in this dangerous behavior. I am grateful that SAFE exists to educate not only the public but professional counselors about this danger to our young people.
At a time in my life when issues which SAFE was devoted to were issues I was becoming more and more aware of on a personal level, I happened across a small red resource card with the then unfamiliar SAFE logo stamped across the front cover. I peered inside at its contents and realized that one apparent mission of this group was to guide those impacted by substance abuse to the appropriate resources. At that moment, I decided SAFE would be a pretty neat group to become involved with. I did not take the step at that time, however.
Fast forward at least five years. In a new professional career, one of my responsibilities was to serve as a school volunteer for SAFE's youth-focused initiatives. Being a "new kid on the block", I was in a number of situations that didn't feel very comfortable. I found some professionals to be somewhat unwelcoming for reasons I did not understand. That was not the case with my SAFE colleagues, however. If they saw that you didn't mind hard work or thinking creatively, you were in! So - I was in!!
Some of my most meaningful and substantive training in the field of prevention came through SAFE. Learning about logic models made me dizzy, but realizing their value in the capacity to address community issues effectively provided me with a new outlook on the (sometimes dreaded) logic model.
I was extended the opportunity to make a real community contribution in co-authoring an inhalant abuse prevention manual with my colleague and now friend, Sharyl Adams. Her tireless work in the field of substance abuse prevention coupled with the leadership, diligence, and vision of our executive director, Wayne Frith, and SAFE's many valued partners and volunteers have catapulted this coalition onto the national scene. When we addressed the issue of inhalant abuse in our community in a strategic way through employing a logic model and all the hard work that followed, outcomes were rather astounding.
SAFE's mission is to engage the community in substance abuse prevention and Mr. Frith is fond of sharing that when a community discovers its values, there is nothing it cannot change. SAFE is now working tirelessly on a number of initiatives that impact substance abuse at the community level through environmental strategies, strategies which are employed to have the greatest impact on the greatest number of families and communities. Its focus is on underage drinking prevention, reduction of prescription medication abuse, and reduced accessibility of inhalant abuse through a cooperative program with area H-VAC companies.
I had the pleasure and privilege of working with this group as a school representative for about five years and will simply never forget the benefits I reaped from my involvement with SAFE at that level.
SAFE is truly a GREAT NON-PROFIT!