News - Hero


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