Coalitions in Action—Meridian Anti-Drug Coalition - Recovery Day Breakfast to Reduce Stigma

The Meridian Anti-Drug Coalition (MADC), which serves the city of Meridian, Idaho, is a suburban, middle-class city that sits on the outskirts of Boise, Idaho’s capital. “The coalition was created by an initiative of Mayor Tammy de Verre in 2004, and for the first ten years, the coalition was entirely grant funded. Then, City Council, the mayor and elected officials really liked the work that was being done, so they slowly integrated a full-time, paid city position to support and run the coalition, as well as a part-time Anti-Drug Coordinator position as well,” began MADC Director Kendall Nagy.

“The coalition and its partnerships have continued to grow since then. We average about thirty active participants and members that attend every meeting. We also have about 40 community partnerships, which include local restaurants and organizations that can fill those needs and gaps that we identify to implement our prevention strategies in the community. I've been working for the coalition and for the city since 2015, and we've been collecting data on the number of events that we hold each year and the number of attendees since then. Last year, we had 64 events, and in our peak year, we had over 70 events and reached over 20,000 community members.”

Each year, the MADC holds an annual event in honor of National Recovery Month. This September marked the coalition’s 16th year holding their annual Recovery Day Breakfast. “We were working with the executive committee on the coalition, brainstorming ideas, and we had some materials that were developed by the Idaho Office of Drug Policy. They were coffee sleeves for the Opt Out, Throw Out and Speak Out Campaign, which encouraged people to safely remove prescription drugs from their homes and guided them on where to dispose of them.”

“One of our coalition members suggested that to promote our Recovery Celebration Breakfast, we should reach out and see if some of the coffee shops that are located closest to the major high schools in Meridian would like to give out those coffee sleeves for an hour. Our coalition members reached out and while a couple coffee shops were unable to participate because it conflicted with company policy, they still wanted to support the event and ultimately offered to donate coffee for the morning of the recovery breakfast, and also offered a gift basket for us to raffle off for those that chose to attend in person.”

“Ultimately, we connected with a coffee shop chain that said they would use the coffee sleeves all day to help get word out at three locations near the biggest high schools in Meridian. Since then, they actually reached back out saying they would like to participate at as many locations as possible. We have requested to use the remaining stock of those sleeves and get those out in preparation for the next DEA prescription take back on October 23.”

“We know that reaching the youth population or the student population can sometimes be a little bit tricky, so we thought that having the coffee sleeves at shops closest to the schools might be a really great way to get that information directly to them and slip important information out to them in a way they might pay more attention to, compared to flyers or posters.”

“As I mentioned, this all went along with our annual Recovery Day event. We do have the support of elected officials and the Police Chief and Mayor throughout the year and all the work that we do, but this one specifically is an event where they are present and help introduce our guest speakers. We also had three of our six city council members there, and our guest speaker this year was Jamie Shropshire, a retired prosecutor and government attorney, who has had 35 years of successful recovery.”

“What was really unique about this speaker was not only did she speak about her personal recovery journey, but she also shared specific action items that we, as attendees, can take to share the message that recovery is for everyone: every person, every family and every community. She really did a fantastic job of tying that those action items back to each of those categories and making it relatable to all the attendees that were there, and of course, it was really great that we had elected officials and city leaders there as well to hear that message.”

“After she spoke, we opened it up for questions. During the breakfast, we also hear from the mayor, and the chief opens with a prayer, and we thank all of our supporters and sponsors that donated coffee and the local restaurant that donates french toast with fresh strawberries. It's just become a tradition that we get a lot of engagement and support from, and it's a fantastic opportunity to reduce stigma surrounding addictions and substance use disorder.”

“Last year, we had a mother and daughter pair speak during the event, and they talked about their perspectives as a daughter who has struggled with addictions and substance use, and what it was like for the mother as she navigated doing her best as a parent. So again, those kinds of presentations are really great at breaking down stigma and barriers, especially in a community like ours, which is comprised mostly of middle class, suburban families.”

“I feel that we are a unique coalition in the state of Idaho having so much city leadership support, and that enables us to have very strong capacity and sustainability. When I came into this position, the coalition had already been established several years prior, so that foundation had already been established by great employees that preceded me. I wasn't around to see exactly how the strong relationship was created, but I will say that our mission is to strengthen our community through substance misuse prevention, and I don't think that you're going to find any organization, city leader or elected official that would argue against that mission. So that that's going for us from the start.”

“I think getting to know your elected officials and really making time for that is so important. I watch city council hearings. I schedule time to sit down with each of our city council members. We also have a city council member that's assigned to each of the departments and each time that rotates through, I make sure to get to know them. It's really about those partnerships and having one-on-one conversations. Also, just being there as a resource to answer questions, especially for Idaho right now, we're one of the last states not to change cannabis-related policy. Currently, there are a lot of questions by a lot of really important decision makers, and they're trying to gain clarity. There's a lot of misinformation out there too, and so really being there, whether it's a last-minute phone call during a legislative session to provide some facts and education or getting to know what their concerns are ahead of time and providing them some data so that they can expand those conversations.”

“All of that is very important and it does take time. That's where it's great to have such a strong capacity, where some of our membership can be working on events, organization and outreach, and I can have a solid knowledge of the different components of information that they are looking for that they can then use to drive forward and further those conversations, not only here in Meridian, but in the Treasure Valley and throughout the state.”

“I think looking back after nearly seven years of working in prevention, it comes down to, again, making the time to reach out. I know it can be hard since everyone’s busy, but there are a lot of resources and organizations that will partner with you, so we don't always have to recreate the wheel and duplicate efforts. Once you start having those conversations, you can actually save time by not going down a route and creating a toolkit that already exists and instead reach out to somebody that may have already created one. There’s never any harm in asking if you can use other’s materials.”

“That will allow you to do more and expand your capacity at the same time. CADCA’s resources are great, and events like CADCA’s National Leadership Forum, those have all created a very strong foundation for us. We do not have any federal grants that we are receiving at this time, since we've gone more towards our state grants to implement our prevention strategies that have costs associated with them. However, I will say that we still use what we learned in the Strategic Prevention Framework today, and we still follow those prevention strategies and that guide.”

Kendall thanks the Idaho Office of Drug Policy for their collaboration in this initiative, as well as the Community Coalitions of Idaho for their support.