Community Leaders Breakfast
by Beaverton Together President Linda Sneddon
It’s all about Prevention. What do you think of when you hear that word? Do you have a one word association that comes to mind? For instance, if I say crime, you probably think punishment—If I say addiction, you might think treatment? But when we say Prevention, it’s not so easy and may seem a little vague.
So what is Prevention? Here is one definition. “The process which promotes health by empowering people with resources necessary to confront complex, stressful life conditions and by enabling individuals to lead personally satisfying, enriching lives.”
Our problem is not that it is vague but that it is so vast! Point of fact, prevention amounts to hundreds of actions and interactions that make up a huge jigsaw puzzle. For a child, many of those pieces are put in place or missing before they are born. How the puzzle gets put together depends on what the adult community is willing to give. If too many pieces of the puzzle are missing, the picture is not pretty. In these stressful economic times, we are seeing piece after piece disconnect, fade or disappear entirely.
We also hear a lot of terms when we talk about prevention such as risk, resiliency, protective factors and strategies, but the most important is Strength. That is where a coalition comes to play. There are individual, family and organizational strengths that when combined creates and binds the jigsaw puzzle together. We all know that it is easier to get a job done when you have help. That’s the purpose of a coalition. We assess strengths and needs, create strategies for action based on those needs and follow through together.
Environmental change does not happen overnight – it is a huge undertaking and it takes sustained effort over time. But it can happen. For example: In 1998, Beaverton School District 8th grader 30 day usage of alcohol was at 28%. In 2007, it had dropped to 14%. Coincidentally (or not) in 2009, Beaverton was named the safest city in the NW for the third year running. What parts of the jigsaw puzzle got filled in? Many would say, that we should pat ourselves on the back and find something else to do, but people in the field of prevention know that it takes more. If we let our guard down, all of the good work is for not.
When the Safe City Award came, did Chief Spalding tell our police officers, “Great job—you’re fired, we don’t need you anymore?” That would be absurd! But that is what is said and done all the time in the field of prevention. Our community landscape is littered with stops and starts of prevention programs and strategies that worked! This is particularly sad when we consider that prevention costs so little compared to the enormous expense that comes with the consequences. What we do need are sustained efforts, due diligence, and dedicated support.
That is where you come in. A coalition is made up of all people in your community from all walks of life. Our planning is ongoing and consistent with the needs of that community. We meet once a month on the second Friday of each month at the Beaverton Resource Center on the corner of Allen and Hall at 7:30 am. Visit the website and if you have questions, click on the “president” e-mail address and we will do our best to answer them.
The most common thing that I hear is “I don’t have time.” My favorite quote and a perfect sentiment for prevention is: “If you don’t have time to do something right, where are you going to find the time to fix it?