Grants & Initiatives
The Drug Free Communities Support Program (DFC) is the nation’s leading effort to mobilize communities to prevent drug use and promote health among our youth. Directed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the DFC program provides grants to local community coalitions to increase collaboration among community partners for the purpose of promoting health and reducing youth substance abuse among our youth. Tahlequah Public Schools is fortunate to be the recipient of one of these grants and utilizes this funding to sponsor the Tahlequah B.E.S.T. Community Coalition. B.E.S.T. stands for “Bringing Everyone’s Strengths Together”. This refers to the many partnerships and individuals in our city who bring their strengths and resources to the table to contribute to the coalition’s success.
Recognizing the fundamental concept that local problems need local solutions, DFC-funded coalitions engage multiple sectors of the community and employ a variety of strategies to address issues among our youth. Coalition members conduct ongoing community assessments to prioritize efforts to prevent and reduce youth drug use and promote healthy behaviors. These assessments are used to plan and implement data-driven, community-wide strategies. The assessments utilized in our community include the Oklahoma Prevention Needs Assessment (OPNA), the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), the Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey (OYTS) and Mobilizing for Action Through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP). The top three focus areas that always rise to the top through these assessment are the need for interventions that support substance abuse prevention and obesity prevention through physical activity and nutrition.
The DFC program requires funded coalitions to employ environmental strategies in broad initiatives aimed at addressing the entire community through the adaptation of policies and practices related to youth substance use and health promotion. In doing so, coalitions can address the environment as a whole and get the most out of available resources. An example of this practice in motion includes the work of the coalition toward promoting the adoption of 24/7 no tobacco or vaping policies in all schools located in Cherokee County as well as supporting tobacco free parks in our city. They also utilize the use of compliance checks in stores to control access of tobacco and alcohol being sold to our youth. While this is just a couple of examples of the many strategies the coalition implements in substance abuse prevention, you get the gist that the coalition’s work is not just about teaching our kids to “Just Say No.” It is really more about changing the environment into one that supports our students to “Just Say No!”
The coalition was also the recipient of the Community Transformation Grant (CTG) through the Cherokee Nation which promoted the Farm-To-School initiative in our community and was responsible for providing school gardens at every elementary in our district. Through this initiative, mini farmer markets were set up at our schools and free veggie bucks were given to students to purchase and learn about locally grown food. Also within the CTG grant, the coalition implemented the Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program. This program sponsored Dan Burden, a consultant from the “Walkable and Livable Institute” to help assess what was needed in our community to better support our youth in walking and biking to school. The SRTS workgroup also coordinates the National Walk To School Days and provides Bike Safety events each spring. The Coalition’s Safe Routes To School workgroup consists of members from Tahlequah Public Schools, Cherokee Nation, Cherokee County Health Department and the City of Tahlequah. The SRTS program was also just awarded a grant from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation totaling $200,000.00 for infrastructure improvements around our elementary schools and $20,000.00 for safety and walking/biking promotion. Congratulations to B.E.S.T. and the SRTS workgroup!
The above partnerships and initiatives are just a few examples of the coalition’s work to improve the environment in our city to support our youth in being healthy. In 2014, the Tahlequah B.E.S.T. Community Coalition celebrated its 10-year anniversary. The success of the coalition can be directly attributed to the many community partners who have a passion for making Tahlequah a great place for our students to thrive and be healthy. Our main partners consist of the Cherokee County Health Department, Cherokee County Tobacco Control Program, Cherokee Nation, City of Tahlequah, Northeastern State University, Department of Human Services, our Mayor and City Council, Tahlequah Police Department, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department, OSU Extension, ABLE Commission, Tahlequah City Hospital, Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, Cherokee County Judiciary, our state representatives and senator, Mental Health providers and Help-In-Crisis. Val Dobbins serves as the Director of Tahlequah B.E.S.T. and Desirae Bloomer serves as the community preventionist for the program.
If you would like more information or would like to become a member of the B.E.S.T. Coalition, you can contact Val or Desirae at Tahlequah Public Schools, 918-458-4191.