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News courtesy of the Braidwood Journal







Bringing the coalition into the classroom
BAHCC implores Reed-Custer schools
BY TONYA MICHALEC
STAFF WRITER


        The problems related to teenage drug and alcohol use and abuse is not limited to big city kids. For the past several years, members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition (BAHCC) have been working to educate both children and their parents on the dangers of illegal drugs and drinking, and providing resources for how families can deal with the issues that are prevalent in most towns, including Braidwood. And now the coalition is looking to spread awareness into the community by stepping into the classrooms to instruct the youth about alcohol and drug abuse at both the middle and high schools in district 255u.

        After establishing a direct mission and a vision, which was finalized at the group’s August monthly meeting, the BAHCC is also required to choose, from a state provided list of three, a community engagement campaign to further the growth of the coalition into the a compliance of its received state grant.

    The active organization received a boost last August from the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Community Health and Prevention.  Chestnut Health Systems, a member organization of the BAHCC, was awarded $75,000 in the form of a state grant to conduct community assessment and planning around youth substance abuse, especially underage drinking, in the Braidwood Area.

The funds are a subgrant of the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) program, developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration. SPF is a structured planning process that can be used with communities to help them identify their most pressing substance abuse issues and guide them to implement proven strategies that are tailored to local conditions.

In order to maintain compliance of the state awarded grant, the BAHCC has chosen the state’s  Youth Prevention Education -project TND (Towards No Drug Abuse) and propositioned the principals from both of Reed-Custer’s middle and high schools last week regarding the program.

The state of Illinois conducted a risk for addiction from substance abuse test to portray the relevance of the rising underage drinking in the southern Will County area, therefore proving the necessity of the TND project.

        According to the CRAFT (a mnemonic acronym of first letters of key wordsof the tests six questions) screening test, one quarter (25 percent) of 10th graders and nearly half (43 percent) of 12th graders, are at risk for alcohol and other drug disorders, and indicated a need for a further substance abuse assessment. (Answered yes to two or more questions)

The purpose of the TND is to delay the onset of alcohol use, reduce use among youths who have already tried it and limit the number of
alcohol-related problems experienced by young drinkers.

The state project requires there to be 12 classroom-based sessions, each of which is 40-50 minutes in length and was designed for implementation over a four-week period.

The coalition is willing to see if either the health teachers at the two schools can instruct the course or possibly provide the schools with an instructor for guidance or even instruction by a trained professional.

“I would love to see this in the high school, but I will have to speak with them [teachers] and see how they would feel about teaching it, but also we will have to see about presenting this to the school board district as well,” RCHS principal, Tim Ricketts said.

        Beyond the decision of who will be instructing the project to the students in the classroom, the coalition and school officials will first
have to come to terms on how to allow for the projects intrusion into the already packed student’s school day. Coming up with an extra three-hours within the already allotted for curriculum may prove to be harder than the coalition initially perceived, some members openly expressed at the September monthly meeting.

        “I’m not sure where something like this [TND project] can fit into a students schedule at the high school, maybe we might be able to do something with homeroom time, but still I don’t know,” pondered Ricketts.

        Pam Surprenant, principal of RCMS, seemed a bit more confident for the allotment of time needed for the project at the middle school.  “I think maybe if we look at our comet time and how we use that,  that may be the way to fit it [TND project] in,” Surprenant suggested.

        However the integration of the project makes its way into the classrooms, the coalition is confident and hopeful that by targeting both the pre-teen and teenage age brackets, that it may help   boost the growth and awareness of its mission- “Working with our neighbors to ensure a promising tomorrow, by providing opportunities that promote healthy life choices today.

        The BAHCC was formed in 2008 to create a safe and drug-free environment in the Braidwood area. Its primary goals are to reduce youth substance abuse and increase family communication and involvement.

The BAHCC meets the second Monday of each month at 4:30 p.m. at the Braidwood Fire Protection Department. Information can be found by calling 815-458-6494, e-mailing the BAHCC at www.braidwoodcoalition.org, or on
Facebook by searching under Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition.




5/14/2013 9:35:00 PM
BAHCC looks to expand borders, partnerships
Marney Simon
Staff writer

The members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition are dedicated to making a better community.

Now, those members are looking for an opportunity to expand their reach with a possible partnership with other Will County towns.

On May 13, members of the BAHCC met for their regular monthly meeting at the Braidwood fire house on Main Street. On the agenda, the possibility of pooling resources with Wilmington and Peotone to create an umbrella organization, which can have a further reach into Will County and seek out additional funds from the state.

The move is not a simple one, however. Members need to decide how to combine resources while maintaining their core principals of prevention strategies for a healthier community. Members who had met earlier in the month with officials in Peotone said they'd like to find a way for the three communities to take on challenges as a team.

"Our action teams would be able to work together," said Pete Dell'Aquila, BAHCC Project Coordinator.

The idea is to come together to provide a more comprehensive prevention strategy to a broader base of people. But the idea is just in its infancy.

Currently, Wilmington already has a active coalition with more funding than the BAHCC, and the group has also been active longer. So the two coalitions would need to work together to navigate the ins and outs of a partnership without inadvertently getting in the way of prevention projects already under way. The hope of the BAHCC expressed this week was simply to try to come up with ideas to work with Wilmington for the greater good.

"We're trying to coordinate on the strategic plan, but we'd like to get them around the table here as well, because our communities have similar problems. We're all in it together," Dell'Aquila said.


The next step is to work with Wilmington to see if a partnership is feasible, Dell'Aquila said. If the groups come together, they would maintain community involvement, but the coalition as a whole would have more opportunities to apply for grants to apply to specific education or prevention strategies.

Grant funds are dependent on the population served, so combining some resources with Wilmington and Peotone could simply mean more cash. That cash can be used for training and creating resources for teens and parents to help fight the illegal use of drugs and alcohol.

"We need to broaden how we serve," explained Joan Leigh of Chestnut Health Systems, a partner of the BAHCC which helps with administrative oversight.

Leigh said that Wilmington's current grant focuses on tobacco, marijuana and alcohol. Right now, the BAHCC's main focus is alcohol. Leigh said this was a good opportunity for the groups to work together on some of those overlapping issues.

"They'll partner with us on that piece of it," Leigh said. "Where our strategies overlap. And that can actually only be a good thing."

Earlier this month, members of the BAHCC, including city leaders and officials from the Reed-Custer school district, met with coalition members from Peotone, and saw the possibility for positive collaboration. The next step, members hope, is to bring in Wilmington and make the coalition stronger.

"If we talk broader than our boundaries, we can probably do better things and help out kids in a better way," Leigh said.

The next step will be for committee members from each of the three cities to come together and see if and how they can work together. That meeting is expected to be later this month.

The BAHCC is a grassroots, volunteer organization dedicated to preventing illegal use of drugs and alcohol by youths in the area.

The vision of the BAHCC, as stated in the group's by-laws, is to assist the community to create a safe and drug-free environment where each and every citizen is nurtured to realize their personal, educational, and economical potential. The group's mission statement reads, "The Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition assists the families within the Braidwood area to live healthier and happier lives through education, service, and safe and drug-free activities in order to establish adult/teen respect, healthy family lifestyles, safe homes for parties and activities, and a community center to house outreach programs for all."

BAHCC members include representatives from the Braidwood City Council, the Braidwood Police Department and the Braidwood Fire Protection District. Those local leaders have taken an active role in the coalition, and are encouraging the public to follow their lead.

The BAHCC meets the second Monday of each month at 4:30 p.m. at the Braidwood fire house on Main Street. The meetings are open to the public.






7/30/2013 9:22:00 PM
National Night Out
Braidwood's police department to host its first night out event
by Tonya Michalec
Staff writer

If you are looking for a great way to capture some completely free family fun, then make sure to add Braidwood Police Department's first National Night Out event to your list of summer activities.

A National Night Out is a community-police awareness-raising event, held all over the United States on the first Tuesday of August. The countrywide event has been held annually since 1984 and is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch in the United States and also in Canada.

The event is meant to increase awareness about police programs such as drug prevention, town watch, neighborhood watch, and other anti-crime efforts, with some of the departments including fun themes and activities within the teachings to appeal to all ages who attend.

That is precisely the direction the group of Braidwood community volunteers took when they planned the lengthy list of attractions and fun activities that are combined with the original vision and purpose of the gathering.

The small planning group consists of Braidwood's Chief of Police Rich Girot, Mayor Bill Rulien, police department clerk Tari Atherton, purchasing manager Mary Beth Pressley, J&C Travel consultant and Chamber of Commerce President Angie Hutton and Braidwood Healthy Area Community Coalition member Pam Dell'Aquilla.

"National Night Out is supposed to be about getting all the neighbors out and being like a big block party of fun, while also entertaining the concepts of awareness in the community," explained Atherton.

The outdoor extravaganza will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Braidwood police station, which is attached to the city hall at 141 W. Main St. The event will flow out of the building's parking lot, into the open parking lot next to it and continue down the adjacent side streets of South Center and Kane streets.

The entire night and all of the activities will be put on by area volunteers and by students collecting National Honor Society community service hours.

Rock climbing, bean bag toss competitions and hula hoop challenges, organized by Kristie McPherson of Essex, are just a few of the family fun games scheduled to be offered at the event.

There will also be an abundance of kid-targeted activities, like face painting by Katie Atherton of Mazon, and Anthony's Balloons, from Grayslake, IL. The artist can creatively form anything from an octopus to a mask of popeye, and everything in between, out of balloons.

Also, there will be a bouncy house, karaoke, sno-cones, chalk art and a story time reading presented by Fossil Ridge Public Library's children's librarian, Mallory Caise.


"I'm excited to get the community together like this and for the kids to meet the members of our police department," Pressley said.

Keeping the purpose of the event in mind, the group has multiple awareness demonstrations and a simulated intoxication experience.

For the intoxication simulation, participants, who must be licensed drivers, will be given vision impaired goggles to wear while they operate a motorized vehicle, which consists of a golf cart on loan to the department from Beaver Creek Golf Carts. Participants try to drive the golf cart through a small designated obstacle course in the parking area behind the city hall building. There are four different sets of glasses to use, each one having different levels of over the legal limit of vision impairment.

The event will also include a K-9 demonstration, performed by Steve Hunter who is a current K9 officer for the department.

"Officer Hunter will hide a small amount of drugs, so that the public can see in action, how the dog will immediately seek them out and retrieve them for him," explained Atherton.

Some city hall employees will be there too, volunteering to hand out emergency memo magnet boards, "Be A Buddy Not A Bully" bracelets, and drug safety pamphlets to the crowd.

Neighborhood Watch sign up sheets and child identification fingerprinting will also be provided.

Don't worry about dinner that night, because the free family fun event also includes free food and beverages to all who attend.

"I would like to thank Berkot's for donating all of the food, J&C Travel for donating all of the drinks and thanks to Bobby Jones, of Joneseez Barbecue, for coming out to do all of the cooking at the upcoming National Night Out," Pressley said.

With attractions like the Mayor Bill Rulien's stint in the dunk tank and an over abundance of free family food and fun, Braidwood's National Night Out event is shaping up to become a major must-attend annual community event.

"Everything there will be free, no one has to pay for anything, but if anyone would like to donate, all of the donations collected will go straight to Braidwood's Food Pantry and to Braidwood's Coalition," Chief Girot said.

To find out more information about this event, or to volunteer your help, contact Mary Beth Pressley at 815-458-2333 or Tari Atherton at 815-458-2342.



7/16/2013 10:19:00 PM
Coalition announces new website and resource directory
by Tonya Michalec
Staff writer

The Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition is keeping up with the times by creating and establishing a website that gives residents access to the organization's event scheduling, community healthy goal objectives and more.

The coalition is a group made up of Braidwood community members, local health agencies, the police department and the fire department that are dedicated and focused on working together to support local youth in making healthy, drug and alcohol free choices.

Pete Dell'Aquilla, coalition coordinator, announced at the coalition's most recent board meeting, held on Monday, July 8, that, "Our website is up and running as of today. It [website] is very user friendly and it really looks great."

The board members also announced at the meeting that they are just about finished with the printing process of the organization's Braidwood Area Community Resource Directory. The resource directory helps local residents easily locate anything from no-kill animal shelters to parent organizations and even food or housing projects.

"The directory is really something that everyone and every household can use in many different cases," commented Pam Dell'Aquilla, coalition board member.

The cover of the directory was designed by a Reed-Custer High School student, Amber Kubinski.


"Eleven students at the high school entered their own personal design layout for the cover and Amber's design won first place," said Sandy Fletcher, president of the coalition. Not only did first place win the design for the cover of the directory, but also a $50 visa gift card. Second place took home a $25 visa gift card and third place walked away with a $10 Subway gift card.

"The kids were really into it and put forth an amazing effort to become involved," added Fletcher.

The directories will be first available at the Braidwood Lions Summerfest this weekend. There at the festival, the coalition will be manning a booth to distribute the resource directory booklets and small prizes for its games and to also educate the public on what the coalition's mission and vision is for the community and its residents.

"We will be handing out a simple and quick community perception survey to the passersby to be able to see what the residents of the local community, as a whole, feel about drinking in general," Pete Dell'Aquilla said.

For more information regarding the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition and its participation in the Braidwood Lions Summerfest, visit www.braidwoodcoalition.org, call 815-725-3491 or write to the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition at P.O. Box 123, Braidwood, Illinois 60408.




4/30/2013 10:34:00 PM
If they changed one mind ...
Their actions mattered
Kandice Kestel placed
Kandice Kestel placed "Your Actions Matter" hang tags on bottles at Angelo's Liquors Friday, when Wilmington teens participated in an underage drinking awareness event organized by the Wilmington Coalition for a Healthy Community.
Pam Monson
Editor

Civic-minded students made it a little harder for teens to get alcohol last week, as they participated in the statewide Your Actions Matter campaign.

Your Actions Matter is an underage drinking awareness program coordinated through the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. It was sponsored locally by the Wilmington Coalition for a Healthy Community, the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition, the Wilmington and Braidwood police departments, Will County Sheriff's Department, Wilmington superintendent of schools Jay Plese, Wilmington Mayor Marty Orr and Braidwood Mayor Bill Rulien. The event brings the month of April, Alcohol Awareness Month in the state of Illinois, to a close.

During the event on Friday afternoon students from the Wilmington and Reed Custer high schools visited each establishment in their community that sells package liquors, and put Your Action Matters decals on refrigerator doors and hang tags on bottled alcohol - reminding adults not to give alcohol to minors.

It is illegal for those under 21 to purchase or consume alcohol in the state of Illinois. It is also illegal for those 21 and over to provide alcohol to anyone under 21.


"Alcohol is extremely easy for youth to get," Wilmington coalition member Rich Rizzo told about one dozen students who showed up for the awareness activity. "Adults are supposed to be the responsible ones, but one of the most common ways youths get alcohol is to get someone over 21 to buy it for them."

Research indicates that the younger an individual is when he or she starts drinking, the more likely the individual is to become alcohol dependent later in life, Rizzo said. More than one in three who begin drinking at age 15 will become alcoholics at some point in their lives; for those who wait until age 17, the rate is one in four. At age 19, the rate of potential alcohol dependency is one in five, and for those who wait until age 21 the rate drops to one in 10.

Mayor Orr thanked the students for participating.

"Some people don't think this helps, but if it changes one person's mind [about buying alcohol for a minor] it's very well worth it," he said.

Mayor Rulien encouraged the students to continue setting a good example for their peers.

Wilmington Police Chief Darin Plotts said parents need to be more aware of alcohol abuse by children, and more involved in prevention.

Angelo's Liquors, Berkot's Super Foods, Wee-Sip Liquors, Midtown Mart and Mobil permitted the Wilmington High School students to bring their campaign to the retail establishments. Reed Custer students got a fire truck escort back to Braidwood, where they visited stores with their message.

The local effort was just one of the many being held all across the state of Illinois thanks to a wide-ranging partnership of statewide industry and prevention groups.




9/11/2012 9:03:00 PM
Coalition works toward bigger role in Braidwood
Marney Simon
Staff writer

The members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition (BAHCC) are using state funding to advance their causes. Now, the coalition is laying out a solid foundation for firming up their group's regulations, in order to become a more powerful presence in the Braidwood community.

Last week, members of the BAHCC attended a two-day training session on community assessments. The training was paid for as part of a $75,000 state grant to conduct community assessment and planning around youth substance abuse. That grant was obtained by Chestnut Health Systems, the partner organization for the BAHCC.

While assessing the effectiveness of the coalition, members discovered that while the will is there, work still needs to be done in order to achieve more community recognition. The group will start doing that first by firming up the documents that govern how they operate.

"That's one of the things that we came up with, the number one priority... for us. Because that is the main goal," explained Sandy Fletcher, the BAHCC's president. "The main goal, number one, is to be recognized as an organization in the community. Who we are, what we are, where we're going, what we're doing. Not only that, it will help us get feedback from the community, when they know there's something there."

One way that the group will work toward that goal is to seek help on a national level. The coalition will use some of the grant funds to join up with a coast-to-coast operation that specializes in community awareness and boosting how a coalition operates.

"We're going to be buying a membership to CADCA," explained Joannie Leigh, a member of Chestnut Health Systems. "It's the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America organization, it's like an association, they're a resource organization to support coalitions in everything that works for impacting the community."

CADCA represents more than 5,000 coalitions and their affiliates, and works closely with those organizations to toward safe, drug free communities. According to their website, CADCA's mission is to strengthen the capacity of community coalitions by providing technical assistance and training, public policy and advocacy, media strategies and marketing programs, conferences, and special events.

The association was founded in 1992, and since then has been training local grassroots groups, such as the BAHCC, in effective community problem-solving strategies. The group teaches association how to assess their local substance abuse-related problems, and how to develop a comprehensive plan to address them.

In addition to providing training and technical assistance, CADCA advocates for community coalitions in Congress and provides networking and educational opportunities through conferences and events. CADCA also educates the public about the latest trends in substance abuse, and provides resources to empower communities to solve issues related to drug and alcohol abuse.


As part of their commitment to the community, the BAHCC is working on their advancing training, and focusing on integrating into the community and problem solving. The main areas the group will hit on in the next few months include:

• Working on the organizational bylaws

• Firming up the group's vision and mission statements

• Developing duties of officers and members

• Developing rules for membership and meetings

• Creating a more formal document governing the BAHCC

Members said that the assessment of the group learned in last week's training session shows that the coalition has great ambition and an urge to move forward, but needs to continue to work to better integrate into the community.

To that end, members have mapped out a way to work on organizational structure, influence in the community, community partnerships and accountability.

Fletcher said that the goal of the BAHCC is to let the public know that they will be on the front lines fighting against drug and alcohol abuse in Braidwood and the surrounding communities.

"It's not just an organization put together just for meetings," Fletcher said. "It's to be an action group, to involve the whole community. It's to try to help the community in preventing the substance abuse, to keep it from getting wild."

The issue of illegal drugs in Braidwood and the surrounding communities was brought home to City Hall on Sept. 11, as members of the community approached the council asking if there were ways to address the drug epidemic.

"We all know that we have an epidemic of heroin in this town," said Jim Vehrs, a resident of the community and an active member of the Knights of Columbus. "During [Summerfest] we found four needles down at the Braidwood City Park. They have surveillance cameras, they're trying to do the best they can. I think that we should really crack down on this heroin epidemic down here in this area. We have to get our neighbors, or citizens involved in this."

Council members urged the public to get involved with the BAHCC, and said they needed the community to step up and engage in community policing practices to help with the issue.

Public Health and Safety Commissioner Eric Tessler said that the police department was actively working on combating the problem, and had recent served another warrant for drug charged.

"The coalition is a great thing," Tessler said. "I think parent involvement is an important thing."

City Clerk Lisa Glisson, who is also a member of the BAHCC, said that the city leaders were actively involved in the BAHCC, which was a good first step to getting the community on board.

"That's part of the battle, is communities where you don't have the political will to stand behind the community," Glisson said. "You have situations where... you just poured it out and told them to go home. It's a big battle that they fight and our community is standing up to fight against that kind of philosophy."

The BAHCC holds monthly meetings with the agenda of public awareness and promotion of prevention programs, and the public is encouraged to attend and learn more about combating drug use and abuse in Braidwood. The BAHCC meets the first Monday of the month at 4:30 p.m. at the Fossil Ridge Public Library in Braidwood.

More information on CADCA can be found online at www.cadca.org.




11/13/2012 8:55:00 PM
Coalition members complete prevention training
Marney Simon
Staff writer

The message is simple - stay clean and stay safe.

But the delivery, especially when it comes to adults relating to teens, is far from simple.

The members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Communities Coalition have worked in recent years to engage the public in the effort to fight the illegal use of drugs and alcohol by area youth. Over the past several months, the group has picked up steam, adding to its membership, creating by-laws and working on long term plans.

The effort has earned the coalition a grant for creating prevention strategies within Braidwood. But as easy as it may sound, prevention is a multi-faceted beast that takes time and effort to implement, even in a small community.

In order to engage in prevention techniques that are effective for the community, BAHCC members first had to learn what prevention even means. While it sounds obvious, the strategies for prevention, particularly within the framework of the grant - $75,000 from the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Community Health and Prevention, which was awarded back in August - need to be specific and on point.

On Nov. 12, about 10 members of the BAHCC competed a one-hour training session entitled "Prevention 101," the first step in creating an effective drug prevention program within Braidwood and its surrounding communities.

Chestnut Health Systems is a member organization of the BAHCC, and is the faction of the BAHCC which oversees the distribution of the grant money. The non-profit organization is charged with the technical training for group members, and helping choose how the money can be spent both within the limits of the grant as well as in the most effective way for the community.

Chestnut Services organizer Tim Cramer held the training seminar this week, explaining that there needs to be specific focus on prevention. Cramer said that while most people are familiar with prevention programs such as "Just Say No," "This is your brain on drugs," and healthy alternative appeals, prevention needs to be more comprehensive than encouraging people to stay clean.

"If it's done in isolation without the other skill building things we know are important, it will not work," Cramer noted. "A good substance abuse curriculum has an element of what drugs are, how they affect you. There is a part for skills, refusal skills, setting goals, those kinds of things. But these attempts were done in isolation, that's why they didn't work."

Cramer noted that in terms of the grant money provided to the BAHCC, the coalition has to stick to prevention strategies, as opposed to treatment and recovery. While that does not mean that the coalition will turn down anyone looking for help who is already dealing with drug use or addiction, the bulk of the coalition's activities are limited, for now, to prevention education.




Cramer said that when you look at prevention from a community approach, you can see real change happen. With that in mind, the coalition can bring people together, identify problems, develop and implement strategies, then eventually reach goals.

"What other place in the community is there where you have the health department, the fire department, treatment provider, all these people, the library, the municipal government, community volunteers, sitting around the table focusing their efforts on a single problem? It's pretty powerful when you can get that to happen," Cramer said.

"We know this, from the research, it creates sustainability, there's a greater likelihood of real world solutions, and since we're all bringing different ideas to the table, each piece of our system can have an impact. Efforts can be integrated into ongoing operations."

Cramer noted that when the coalition gets involved, the effort to fight drug and alcohol use and abuse is no longer just a problem for parents, schools, or the police. Instead, prevention becomes a community responsibility.

As far as where to go from this point, Cramer said the coalition will focus on planning that is already research-based, which means the strategies are backed up by research to be effective.

One effective strategy is using the grant funds to engage in "social norms" marketing. Cramer said that the coalition can show the public how something that is often socially acceptable, such as adults providing alcohol for teenage parties, no longer have to be allowed.

"They see it as a rite of passage and parents provide alcohol, they think it's okay if they -take their keys away and don't let them drive," Cramer said. "That [creates] acceptance of underage drinking. But you can do a communication campaign around changing that norm. That parents shouldn't do it and they shouldn't provide.

"You do this, kids and parents start hearing it from all systems and sectors in the community, saying the same message," Cramer continued. "It becomes a norm, parents then can look at other parents and not feel like they're the only ones not letting their kids drink, that there's actually more parents out there than you can even imagine who don't give in."

Another strategy the coalition will work on for prevention is to develop a mentoring program.

"Mentoring is very powerful," Cramer noted. "A kid can be exposed to multiple risk factors... but if they have one person in their corner that believes in them and believes that they can achieve and inspire, and they bond to that person, that is a very strong buffer from the negative."

Members of the coalition said they were excited to get moving on the effort to fight illegal and underage drug and alcohol abuse in the Braidwood area. Braidwood Mayor Bill Rulien even suggested that the city may be able to help fund some of the coalition's efforts to reach the younger set.

"I can't think of a better use of our police department's drug forfeiture fund than for something like this," Rulien said.

The city's drug forfeiture fund contains money the city receives from drug busts and other seizures. The money is federally mandated to be used only for activities which benefit the fight against illegal drug use. Rulien said he would work with Police Chief Rich Girot to see if any of those funds could be made available to aid the coalition in efforts to reach youth, such as establishing a social media presence.

The BAHCC will offer the training session to interested members of the community in the future. Membership to the coalition is free and open to any interested party in the area who wishes to make a difference in the lives of local youth.

The coalition's next meeting is Monday, Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. The BAHCC has moved its regular meeting from the library to the training room at the Braidwood Fire Department's firehouse on Main Street. The public is encouraged to attend all meetings.





8/14/2012 8:13:00 PM
Coalition receives $75,000 grant to fight drug and alcohol abuse
Marney Simon
Staff writer

The problems related to teenage drug and alcohol use and abuse is not limited to big city kids. For the past several years, members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition (BAHCC) have been working to educate both children and their parents on the dangers of illegal drugs and drinking, and providing resources for how families can deal with the issues that are prevalent in most towns, including Braidwood.

Now, the small but active organization has gotten a boost from the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Community Health and Prevention.

This week, Chestnut Health Systems, a member organization of the BAHCC, was awarded $75,000 in the form of a state grant to conduct community assessment and planning around youth substance abuse, especially underage drinking, in the Braidwood area. The funds are a subgrant of the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) program, developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

SPF is a structured planning process that can be used with communities to help them identify their most pressing substance abuse issues and guide them to implement proven strategies that are tailored to local conditions.

The grant awardees are each members of eligible coalitions in southern Will County. The grant award means that Chestnut staff members will be able to continue offering services to the BAHCC, which otherwise has to operate fully on volunteer workers and funds.

Coalition members were happy to hear the good news.

"I think anything that will help the coalition to grow is great," said Tim Ricketts, principal at Reed-Custer High School and a member of the BAHCC since its inception. "We have grown in numbers which has been nice, but if the money will help us to expand our programs which in turn will make a greater impact on reducing the number of kids using drugs or alcohol that is our ultimate goal."

The BAHCC holds monthly meetings with the agenda of public awareness and promotion of prevention programs. But the group is also active in a variety of other endeavors locally.


Last spring, the coalition sponsored the first "Family Celebration" at the library in Braidwood. The afternoon celebration provided services from local groups associated with the BAHCC, such as fingerprinting of children by the Braidwood Police Department and information from area civic and community groups on drug and alcohol prevention.

Attendees also got to participate in SIDNE (Simulated Impaired DriviNg Experience), sponsored by the Will County Sheriff's Department. The hands on experience allowed people to drive go-cart type cars, where the steering and braking are delayed to simulate an altered response like what would happen when a person is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In addition to the Celebration, the BAHCC sponsors the Illinois Youth Survey, which is administered every other year to high school students. The survey is an anonymous survey on drug and alcohol abuse that allows kids to honestly describe their experiences with drugs and alcohol, letting the BAHCC and Chestnut track trends and develop strategies to fight the problems.

The latest results of the Illinois Youth Survey are expected to be available to the public in the next few months.

The BAHCC also continues to work with the Reed-Custer school district on the Safe Homes campaign.

Safe Homes is a community-wide network of parents. That network is listed in a pledge-based directory of students and their families. In that directory, parents pledge to supervise gatherings of youth at their homes, to set appropriate expectations and consequences for their children, to know where their children are and who they are with, and most importantly to pledge to provide a drug and alcohol free environment for children.

Once the pledge is signed, the names are added to the directory, which is published twice a year. The directory empowers parents to take a stand with their kids at a time when children are striving to be independent but still need direction. The directory also gives parents an added tool when confronted with decisions about where, when and with whom their children associate.

While the BAHCC members work to find solutions to drug and alcohol abuse and encourage kids to just say no, members said there's always more work to be done.

"I still would like to see more parents and community members get involved and would encourage parents to join the Safe Home network through the BAHCC," Ricketts said.

Upcoming events for the coalition include Family Day in September. The coalition is the local sponsor of "National Family Day" on Sept. 24, an effort encouraging families to eat together and talk on that day. The BAHCC is sponsoring a contest for children ages pre-school through high school to design a place mat depicting a fun family memory of family meal time. The winning entries will be copied and distributed to local restaurants.

Chestnut Health Systems, based in Bloomington, offers substance abuse prevention services in Will, Kendall, and Grundy counties. Chestnut has been in operation for more than 35 years, offering addiction treatment and prevention services, mental health counseling and housing, credit counseling, substance abuse related research, training, and publications, and employee assistance and workplace services.

The BAHCC was formed in 2008 to create a safe and drug-free environment in the Braidwood area. Its primary goals are to reduce youth substance abuse and increase family communication and involvement.

The BAHCC meets the first Monday of the month at 4:30 p.m. at the Fossil Ridge Public Library in Braidwood. Information can be found by calling 458-6494, e-mailing the BAHCC at braidwoodsafehomes@gmail.com, or on Facebook by searching under Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition.






2/14/2012 10:46:00 PM
Coalition gets ready for a Celebration
Marney Simon
Staff writer

Coming together for the good of the community is the whole purpose behind the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition (BAHCC). And after nearly four years of ups and downs, building and reaching out, the coalition is ready to host their inaugural celebration event.

It's one that members hope will open up their membership, while recognizing all their work for the city of Braidwood thus far.

Members of the BAHCC met on Monday, Feb. 13 to discuss plans for the Celebration. The event is slated for Thursday, April 19, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Fossil Ridge Public Library. The event will feature raffles, demonstrations, a jump house and refreshments, as well as information for parents and community members on how to create a better Braidwood.

"We're celebrating all of the things that we've done in the past two years, and promoting the organization even further," said Reed-Custer High School principal Tim Ricketts, a member of the coalition.

Ricketts said that the coalition's humble beginnings has led to great things in Braidwood. The coalition has worked over the past four years with the school district on the establishment of the Safe Homes directory, a list of families who have signed a pledge to make sure their homes are safe for other children.

The coalition has also taken a role in preparing for post-prom activities at the high school. Ricketts said the coalition has evolved from just a few people meeting monthly into a real resource for the community.

"I think it's really come a long way," Ricketts said.

Other members agreed, saying that the Celebration was a way to reach out to the community and grab the attention of others.


"To promote and unite the Braidwood community," said coalition member Pete Dell'Aquilla. "We want to have a safer community, a more united community."

With more than a dozen members in attendance this month, the coalition has grown quite a bit. What was once just a meeting of the minds, the group has organized and provided resources for the community far outside just the school district.

"We haven't just grown in people, but we've grown in organization participation," said member Sandy Fletcher. "We started out with the high school, now we have high school, middle and intermediate. We've got police and sheriff's department, city, fire department, who are all involved, who are part of this. We've got the library. Community organizations who are now aware, who are participating. Two years ago I didn't know what some of these things were as a newcomer to this community."

Fletcher noted that the coalition has also worked with neighborhood watch groups in Custer Park and Shadow Lakes.

"Things are connecting and communication is a little bit better than it was before," Fletcher said. "It is an outreach that's happening."

Demonstrations at the April Celebration will include a demonstration from Braidwood's new police dog, Neutron. The event will also feature a SIDNE demonstration. SIDNE stands for Simulated Impaired DriviNg Experience, and allows people drive go-kart type cars, where the steering and braking are delayed to simulate an altered response like what would happen when a person is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Another hands-on demonstration planned for the event is 'Fatal Reaction,' which works like a computer game. The demonstration works by having people wear special goggles that will distract them while they try to perform tasks, to simulate things like distracted driving.

The Celebration is free and open to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend.

The BAHCC formed in 2008 with the intent of helping to create an environment free of alcohol and drug abuse for the youth of Braidwood. Currently, the coalition is meeting with local leaders from the city, emergency services, social services, churches, businesses and other civic organizations in an effort to diagnose Braidwood's toughest problems and come up with some solutions. The members meet once a month at the Fossil Ridge Public Library.

More information on the BAHCC can be found in the special Braidwood Trends edition of this newspaper.


1/4/2011 11:20:00 PM
Residents urged to stand up, take notice
Community forum set for end of the month
REED-CUSTER HIGH SCHOOL Principal Tim Ricketts (right) talks about some of the results of the Illinois Youth Study with members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Communities Coalition (BAHCC), including (from left) Noreen Klover, Tim Cramer, Anna Yackle and Kathy Jones. The BAHCC is planning a community forum for Jan. 31
REED-CUSTER HIGH SCHOOL Principal Tim Ricketts (right) talks about some of the results of the Illinois Youth Study with members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Communities Coalition (BAHCC), including (from left) Noreen Klover, Tim Cramer, Anna Yackle and Kathy Jones. The BAHCC is planning a community forum for Jan. 31
Marney Simon
Staff writer

Braidwood teens know their way around.

That's one of several messages included in the results of the most recent Illinois Youth Survey, conducted in the Reed-Custer School District in October and November 2010.

Now, members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Communities Coalition (BAHCC) are hoping that parents and community members will stand up and take notice of what the kids in town doing.

The BAHCC is planning a community forum for Monday, Jan. 31 at the Fossil Ridge Public Library. During the forum, the group will present the results of the Illinois Youth Survey, which was administered in the fall by Chestnut Health Systems under the direction of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). The bi-annual survey is conducted on school-aged children in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 on their attitudes and behaviors regarding alcohol, tobacco, other drug use, violence, exercise and nutrition. The survey contains demographic items and several questions addressing the five domains of risk: community; family; school; peers; and individual. Results of the survey are used by the IDHS to determine the effectiveness of the state's prevention programs and to support communities in the use of data-driven decision making.

The survey is administered anonymously in order for students to feel free to be as honest as possible, thus providing the most concrete data available. That way, the BAHCC and the community as a whole are better equipped to come up with solutions for problems that are specific to Braidwood.

Included in the survey will be teen attitudes on drinking, smoking, marijuana use and use of elicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine. According to early results of the survey, Braidwood high school seniors especially have been exposed to many drugs, and have attitudes on drinking and drugs that may not necessarily conform with many adults in town. The BAHCC will provide for the public detailed survey results.

The meeting won't just be about the survey though. A panel of teens will be invited to answer questions, hopefully opening the door to better communication with adults in the community.

The forum will also include information on the Safe Homes program though the Reed-Custer School District and the BAHCC. Safe Homes is a community-wide network of parents. That network is listed in a pledge-based directory of students and their families. In that directory, parents pledge to supervise gatherings of youth at their homes, to set appropriate expectations and consequences for their children, to know where their children are and who they are with, and most importantly to pledge to provide a drug and alcohol free environment for children.

Paula Ekstrom, chair of the Wilmington Coalition for a Healthy Community, will also speak at the event about community involvement and preventative strategies that are being implemented in Wilmington through their sister-coaliton.

While the BAHCC is looking to increase public awareness in areas of substance abuse and prevention programs, the coalition is also looking to expand throughout the community. One of the goals of the BAHCC is to open lines of communication with area churches, to create a network of local leaders who can help provide social support.

"To have somebody to call in a time of crisis is very powerful," Reed-Custer High School Principal Tim Ricketts said. Ricketts, who meets with coalition members monthly, said that the expansion of the BAHCC is only good news for the community.

"We seem to be growing and that is encouraging," Ricketts added.

The community forum is scheduled for Jan. 31 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Fossil Ridge Public Library in Braidwood. The public is encouraged to attend.





9/7/2010 10:56:00 PM
Community coalition focuses on prevention, safety
About the BAHCC
The Braidwood Area Healthy Communities Coalition (BAHCC) was organized two years ago to help create an environment free of alcohol and drug abuse. Currently, the coalition is meeting with local leaders from the city, emergency services, social services, churches, businesses and other civic organizations in an effort to diagnose Braidwood's toughest problems and come up with some solutions.

"We're talking to people in the community and asking them about substance abuse and what they think the biggest problems in Braidwood are," said Tim Cramer of Chestnut Health Systems, one of the organizers for the BAHCC. "We're going to put all those together... and we'll have a picture. The data will tell us one story, but the interviews with community people help fill out that picture and tell us another story."

Cramer said that so far, responses to the coalition are positive, with community members believing that the coalition will benefit Braidwood and surrounding areas as a whole. Right now, BAHCC members are looking to host a town hall style meeting to discuss prevention programs and the overall need to fight drug and alcohol use in Braidwood. That meeting has not been set, but members hope to see it come together sometime this winter. In the meantime, the organization is hoping to recruit new members to spread their message and work together to create a healthier community.

The BAHCC assists families within the Braidwood area to live healthier and happier lives through education, service and safe and drug-free activities in order to establish mutual respect between adults and teens, healthy family lifestyles, safe homes for parties and activities, and a community center to house outreach programs for all.

The BAHCC currently meets the first Monday of the month at 4 p.m. at the Reed-Custer High School Library. The public is encouraged to attend.

Marney Simon
Staff writer

Two years ago, a handful of community members got together with a vision of a healthier Braidwood. Today, the Braidwood Area Healthy Communities Coalition (BAHCC) remains small, but active in the community and looking to grow.

Members of the BAHCC met on Tuesday, Sept. 7 to discuss a busy fall schedule working with the Reed-Custer School District. The coalition will take part in the Reed-Custer High School open house tonight (Wednesday). One of the main programs the coalition will focus on again will be additions to the Safe Homes directory.

Safe Homes is a community-wide network of parents. That network is listed in a pledge-based directory of students and their families. In that directory, parents pledge to supervise gatherings of youth at their homes, to set appropriate expectations and consequences for their children, to know where their children are and who they are with, and most importantly to pledge to provide a drug and alcohol free environment for children.

Safe Homes creates a way for parents to interact with one another and to make sure that they and other parents are on the same page as far as expectations for their children and keeping kids safe. For the students, the directory and pledge sends a clear and consistent message that alcohol, drug and tobacco use are not acceptable, and breaking the rules have consequences.

According to the 2008 Illinois Youth Survey, 18 percent of Will County sixth graders admitted to alcohol use in the past year, and 65 percent of high school sophomores said the same. In that same survey, 26 percent of sophomores and 40 percent of seniors in Will County admitted to using marijuana in the past year. More than a third of both sophomores and seniors said they aren't worried about being caught by their parents when drinking.

So far, the directory is gaining a lot of support from families in the high school. Math teacher Carol Evans collects those pledge forms from parents and records it in the directory. Evans said the popularity of the directory is growing.

"We have close to 50 [families] and that's pretty sizable," Evans said, noting that currently, the directory only covers the high school and not the middle school.

Evans said that when it comes to signing the pledge, for a lot of parents, it's just common sense.

"It's a pledge that they sign and say that they're going to supervise the youth that come to their homes, and supervise their children and know where they are at all times and not allow them access to drugs and alcohol," Evans said. "Most parents are very willing to sign the sheet."

Once the pledge is signed, the names are added to the directory, which is then put out twice a year. Evans said the directory empowers parents to take a stand with their kids at a time when children are striving to be independent but still need direction. The directory give parents an added tool when confronted with decisions about where, when and with whom their children associate.


"I think it's a fabulous way for parents to be able to network and say, we as parents agree on these points, and we know that these are other homes that are also going to abide by these rules in the community," Evans said. "It gives parents such power to say, no you can't go to that kid's house because they are not in the directory, or at least let me talk to them first because we feel strongly that we only want you in places where you're not going to be allowed access to drugs and alcohol."

Parents can pick up a Safe Homes pledge form at the open house, or can contact Carol Evans for further information at evans@rc255.net. The program is endorsed by the Reed-Custer School District.

Another issue of safety for students discussed at the BAHCC meeting was post-prom festivities. The coalition and the school are working together to create and supervise an after-prom event that will be both safe and fun for all in attendance.

Principal Tim Ricketts told members of the coalition that post-prom activities would be one of the topics of discussion at the year's first Parental Advisory Link (PAL) meeting.

"I've already got a group of senior girls.... I've already met with them," Ricketts said. "Then we're going to try to get a parent committee together for post-prom."

The goal of the post-prom discussions will be to try and come up with valuable and attainable ideas for safe post-prom activities, including games, prizes, contests, rules, vendors, set-up, community resources and local sponsors. The post-prom ideas are just in the early stages for now.

"I'm sure that will... grow over time," Ricketts said of the parent committee and the post-prom festivities. "Ideally what I'd like to do is get some junior and some senior parents, so every year we have some parents from the previous year since it is a junior and senior prom. So we'd like to get maybe a dozen parents, five or six junior parents and five or six senior parents, that's our goal."

The PAL meeting immediately follows the open house. The RCHS open house is Sept. 8 from 5-7 p.m. More information on the BAHCC and the Safe Homes program will be available to all parents at the event.