Who is Community Alliance: Hales Corners and Greendale Communities?
Community Alliance: Hales Corners and Greendale Communities (Community Alliance) was formed in the fall of 2017 after Community Health Improvement Planning (CHIP) processes in both communities revealed shocking increases in adult binge drinking and opioid-related hospitalizations and deaths, electronic cigarette use and an increase in youth marijuana use (30% have tried marijuana in their lifetime, 17% used within the past 30 days) (Greendale High School YRBS, 2016). Recognizing that addressing these new priorities would require a community and school focused solution, Community Alliance joined the Greendale Assistance Program (GAP) committee. GAP, a group affiliated with the Greendale School District, had been working on preventing substance abuse and other risky behaviors among students for nearly 20 years. This key partnership was the driving force behind expanding the effort to address substance abuse at the community level.
The Villages of Greendale and Hales Corners formed Community Alliance together because of their existing relationships through their Health, Fire and Police Departments. The two health departments have had a long standing relationship of collaborating on health issues. Substance misuse, especially in youth, was another issue that both communities knew they needed to address.
Two of the biggest challenges faced by Community Alliance are community denial that a problem exists and fear of stigma. Greendale and Hales Corners communities are prosperous and have great schools, so many residents feel insulated from the problem. This creates a false narrative when it comes to substance abuse, with many believing that “it does not happen here” and “drug abuse is a city (of Milwaukee) issue.” Further, some parents try to keep quiet about their children’s substance abuse issues for fear of being stigmatized by neighbors and fellow parents.
The biggest focus for Community Alliance’s first year was to develop partnerships, assess the needs of youth and families in both the Greendale and Hales Corners communities, and inventory and manage the resources of the two health departments. Some of the successful events we held in 2018-2019 included community wellness events with a focus on youth substance abuse prevention held at Greendale High School (nearly 300 attendees); tours of the “Wake up Call” teen replica room which educates adults on the hidden signs of substance use in a teenager’s bedroom (60 attendees); screenings of SAMHSA and Wisconsin Department of Justice youth alcohol and drug abuse prevention public service announcements at local movie theaters (reached 60,000 people); and creation and distribution of community resource guides (200 distributed). Community Alliance also identified and recruited members to bring representation from SAMHSA's 12 Community Sectors to the coalition.
Community Alliance owes much of its success to the strong collaborative partnerships it has cultivated with a wide variety of community organizations. Some of these key partnerships include: Greendale School District, Hales Corners Lutheran Church, Hales Corners and Greendale Police and Fire Departments, and neighboring coalitions and Health Department staff.