For nearly thirty years, Community Connections (CCI) has been dedicated to creating stronger communities throughout West Virginia. The agency, located in Mercer County and working throughout southeastern West Virginia, has worked to establish a legacy of environmental change strategies locally, regionally, and statewide.
Within the past decade, Community Connections, one of the state’s six Prevention Lead Organizations, has continually expanded to change local conditions in a variety of ways. From identification of local resources to fight the ongoing problems with addiction and substance abuse to essential services like food distribution and community revitalization, CCI has been an essential partner in the communities it serves. CCI has been active in starting Teen Court programs (www.wvteencourt.org) throughout the state and worked with CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) to train over three dozen community coalitions. Using evidence-based anecdotal and analytical data collection methods, all sectors of the community including (youth, parents, business community, media, schools, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement agencies, religious or fraternal organizations, healthcare professionals, state, local or tribal agencies with expertise in the field of substance abuse, civic and volunteer groups, and other organizations) are becoming engaged in creating change where it matters most: home.
Through other grant-based initiatives with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau of Behavioral Health (BBH), such as the Partnerships for Success (PFS) grant and our State Opioid Response (SOR) funding, CCI is working with schools and communities to engage schools with specialized curriculum (Botvin Life Skills, Too Good for Drugs, Ripple Effects, and others) to build resiliency in students and teach the value of being drug free. Perhaps one of the most important pieces of this funding is the community-based outreach through the suicide prevention program. Through multiple community-based “SAFE TALK” trainings, the program coordinator provides broad-based intervention strategies to strengthen individual skills and guide toward saving lives.
“Having funding for comprehensive prevention strategies is not only good for our communities, it is building a baseline workforce that is properly trained on how to assess, determine capacity, plan, implement and evaluate these communities to achieve a high rate of success,” says Executive Director Greg Puckett.“I honestly feel that West Virginia is leading the way in so many facets of community prevention strategies. Together with other PLOs, and collaborations on the local level, we are not only changing lives, but saving them.”
Other programming with Community Connections includes the highly successful Camp Mariposa (www.campmariposawv.org). This unique therapy camp geared for ages 9-12 works with youth experiencing substance use disorders within their lives, whether from family, friends or community. Using a series of modules over a year-long commitment, the camp also uses the Gracie Guides (www.graciesguides.com) to educate on positive choices and overcoming adversity.