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Communities that Care (CTC) Coalition

Summary 
  • Need: A way to address substance abuse among teenagers in Massachusetts's predominately rural areas of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region.
  • Intervention: A community-based prevention initiative was formed to reduce youth violence, delinquency, and alcohol and tobacco use.
  • Results: CTC has seen significant reductions in substance abuse among local youth in the 30 rural towns they serve.
Evidence-level
Promising (About evidence-level criteria)
Description

The Communities That Care Coalition (CTC) of Massachusetts’s predominately rural areas of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region began out of a concern for their area’s youth. In 2002, a group of community members gathered to discuss effective ways to address substance abuse that had become prevalent among teenagers. Since then, concerned youth, parents, schools, community agencies, and local governments have united to promote the health of young people by combating substance abuse through CTC.

Communities that Care Coalition Logo

The Coalition is based on the national CTC program, a community-based prevention initiative that aims to reduce youth violence, delinquency, and alcohol and tobacco use. Their tested methods, prevention policies, and programs were designed to be replicated on a local level.

CTC operates through the following workgroups:

CTC Parent Education Workgroup
Members of the Communities That Care Coalition’s Parent Education Workgroup in front of one of the Coalition’s billboards.

CTC is co-hosted by Community Action and Partnership for Youth. Several dozen partners have contributed to CTC’s success. CTC includes more than 200 members with representation from local government, businesses, schools, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, media, hospitals, mental health providers, parent advocates, and out-of-school-time programs.

In 2002, a federal Drug Free Communities grant, distributed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, provided the initial funds to run the program for several years. In addition, CTC has raised more than $5 million over the last 13 years toward the program’s efforts.

This video explains more about CTC Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region.

Services offered

The CTC system is data-driven and evidence-based and uses information collected about local youth to identify areas of need and measure the program’s success. In 2003, they conducted a Teen Health Survey to evaluate high school students’ risky behaviors and underlying risk factors. Since then, annual surveys have helped guide CTC’s efforts. This past year, the Coalition conducted a series of interviews and focus groups and to inform their work.

The Coalition publishes and maintains a Community Action Plan for reducing youth substance use and improving youth health in the region. The plan is updated regularly by the coalition’s workgroups based on updated local data and community input.

CTC sponsors Botvin LifeSkills Training for middle school teachers. LifeSkills equips youth with tools like decision making, anger management, conflict resolution, and effective communication. It has a proven track record of reducing youth substance abuse and violence.

The Coalition also works to support Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) for all students in all of their school districts. They work with local schools to help ensure that school policies related to substance use follow best practices and principles of restorative justice.

Marketing is a large part of CTC's efforts. The Coalition works with school districts to coordinate a student-led campaign to promote healthy behaviors. Billboards, PSAs, advertisements, materials, and events have helped shed light on the harmful results of substance abuse. For instance, youth partner with alcohol vendors for a “Sticker Shock” campaign, using messages on stickers to encourage parents to help prevent underage drinking.

Students Involved in CTC
Greenfield High School students involved in the Communities That Care Coalition’s "Above the Influence" campaign.

CTC’s Parent Education Workgroup offers mini-grants with funding from the Baystate Franklin Medical Center to member agencies working on family education efforts. The funds provide evidence-based training for parents and child caregivers, as well as efforts that strengthen family connection.

Results

Thirty rural towns in Franklin County and the North Quabbin have benefited from CTC. Since the program’s launch in 2002, Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region have seen significant reductions in substance abuse in local youth:

  • Alcohol use dropped by 36%
  • Binge drinking dropped by 35%
  • Cigarette smoking dropped by 52%
  • Marijuana use dropped by 24%
Communities that Care Results Infographic

From October, 2015 through January, 2016, CTC completed a set of interviews and focus groups as part of a community assessment on youth substance abuse. Findings were compiled into a report. Students made videos that include personal testimony of the impact of substance abuse in their schools.

The Coalition has received recognition across Massachusetts and the nation for its innovation and accomplishments:

Barriers

Finding and sustaining funding in a low-income rural community has consistently been the greatest challenge for the Coalition, particularly as federal dollars have faded. CTC handled this challenge by including improving youth nutrition and physical activity. Now, the challenge is to maintain the Coalition’s focus while working on multiple related issues.

Replication

CTC has become a mentor site to sister coalitions across the state. Below are some principles they suggest for those who are interested in starting something similar:

  • Create boundaries. Prioritize the greatest needs of your area’s youth and focus on those first. While you should limit your service area to be a manageable size, be willing to expand your boundary lines as your capacity allows.
  • Develop your strategic framework. Keep it simple, but comprehensively outline the issues that need addressing and your plans to achieve improvement.
  • Secure community involvement and support before launching the program. With programs like this, the buy-in from local stakeholders is necessary. Seek out those who share a similar mission and are already taking steps to build up their youth.
Contact Information
Kat Allen, Co-Chair
Communities that Care
413.774.3167
KAllen@frcog.org
Topics
Children and youth
Community engagement and volunteerism
Substance abuse
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
States served
Massachusetts
Date added
May 5, 2016
Date updated or reviewed
May 16, 2017

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.