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Coalitions focus on mental health, community support

by Rebecca Pettingill
Staff Writer | September 22, 2022 1:00 AM

GRANT COUNTY - Kayla Isaacson and Megan Watson are coalition specialists working to deter substance abuse and empower youth in Grant County communities.

“The idea is that whatever the coalition does, is super tailored to the community that we’re in, so a lot of times we’ll see a big variation on the specific goals that we’re working on and the strategies that we’re using to get there,” said Watson.

Isaacson is the coalition coordinator for the Soap Lake Prevention Coalition and Watson the same for the Moses Lake Community Coalition. Watson previously spent two years with the Quincy Partnership for Youth.

While Isaacson and Watson serve separate communities, a lot of their goals and strategies are the same.

In both Soap Lake and Moses Lake, big focuses for the coalitions have been use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs as well as mental health in the community.

Soap Lake has a strong focus on decreasing favorable attitudes toward underage substance use, reducing youth access to alcohol, tobacco and drugs and strengthening refusal and resistance skills.

Moses Lake is focused on school performance, delinquency, suicide prevention and adverse childhood experiences.

Watson explained that healthy coping skills are important and have a significant impact on substance use, especially in youth.

“Kids don’t start using without a purpose,” Watson said. “There’s usually something behind it, and it’s our job to really dig into the root causes of why and a lot of it has to do with coping skills.”

Much of what Watson and Isaacson do to mitigate substance use and create healthier communities has to do with awareness. They provide information including:

  • Emotional self-regulation tools
  • Family communication classes
  • Media campaigns geared towards encouraging healthy coping skills and open
  • conversations about alcohol, tobacco and drugs
  • Community education workshops

While they provide a lot of information on a variety of topics related to overall well-being, they also have to figure out what their individual communities struggle with and what would help them overcome those challenges, in a way that is accessible to them.

“One of those things that you always have to keep in mind when you’re implementing strategies in the community is what are the barriers our community is going to face?” Watson said.

She explained that barriers can include more than just economic status and racial equity, it can also be things such as transportation and access to the internet.

One way they work to make their material more accessible is by providing the material in print and media as well as having English, Spanish and Russian versions.

Watson and Isaacson both said that it is no easy feat trying to figure out what strategies work in their respective communities and they are constantly reevaluating the things they are doing. They explained a big obstacle is not having as much community involvement as they would like. Without feedback and support from their respective communities, they have a harder time figuring out what is most receptive in the communities and what their communities want the coalitions to look like. The biggest objective, they said, is to help these coalitions be able to be self-sufficient and important parts of the communities they’re in.

“I think our overall goal is really just to provide a place for people to come together and share ideas, their concerns and resources, and just foster that collaboration amongst community members and organizations and other key leaders from other communities in Grant County,” said Isaacson.

Ultimately, Watson and Isaacson said they have a passion for their work and are just a bridge and resource for a community to come together and do their part in creating a healthier future for everyone across the country.

“We’re focusing on each specific community and their needs, wants and goals but at the same time as a county, as a state, as a nation, we have one overarching goal and mission to have healthy youth, communities and families,” said Isaacson. “And I think the more coalitions working towards those goals, there’s more consistency, and hopefully a higher chance that things will go the way we want them to go.”

Contact the Coalitions

Soap Lake Prevention Coalition on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SoapLakePrevention

Moses Lake Community Coalition on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MLCommunityCoalition

or email the coordinators at:

kmisaacson@grantcountywa.gov

mlwatson@grantcountywa.gov

Rebecca Pettingill may be reached at rpettingill@columbiabasinherald.com. For more coverage, download the Columbia Basin Herald app - available for iOS and Android devices.

photo

COURTESY PHOTO/KAYLA ISAACSON

Coalition Specialist Kayla Isaacson said Soap Lake has a strong focus on decreasing favorable attitudes toward underage substance use, reducing youth access to alcohol, tobacco and drugs and strengthening refusal and resistance skills.

photo

COURTESY PHOTO/KAYLA ISAACSON

Coalition Specialist Megan Watson said Moses Lake is focused on school performance, delinquency, suicide prevention and adverse childhood experiences.

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