In November, the East Hawai‘i Drug-Free Coalition (EHDFC), in partnership with the Salvation Army, Family Intervention Services (FIS), conducted their first-ever in-person gathering. The two-day retreat, entitled, “Policy IN Action,” included twenty East Hawai‘i residents from various community sectors that included law enforcement, judiciary, youth-serving organizations, substance use treatment, and parents.
A few months ago, coalition members identified the need for us to get out in the community to have community conversations with residents and community-based organizations to build relationships with the broader community. Being that the coalition was started during the pandemic, this was seen as a priority before the coalition decided to implement any strategies. The two-day retreat focused around the importance of building equitable coalition processes that begin with listening to residents and building relationships and trust within the community.
The retreat was interactive and allowed participants the opportunity to share their perspectives on what health disparities look like in East Hawai‘i and included personal stories of lived experience that was moving and inspiring for the group.
The retreat was co-facilitated by EHDFC Project Director, Rick Collins, coalition coordinator, Sally Ancheta, and Allen Bartolome, Special Projects Coordinator
Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Group. Guest speakers included Michelle Park, CPS, Program Manager, Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii who shared the Impact of Substance Use on Native Hawaiians with a focus on prevention efforts. EHDFC Secretary and incoming Chair, Jaceyln Auna, Quality Manager, Big Island Substance Abuse Council, presented an insightful presentation regarding historical trauma of alcohol use, from the lens of an East Hawai’i Native Hawaiian community, Keaukaha Hawaiian Homestead. Joshua Franklin, UH Hilo student and Parent Advocate, provided participants with a personal perspective of being raised under the substance misuse of family members.
The retreat was opened with inspiring words from Roxanne Costa, Executive Director of Salvation Army FIS and outgoing co-chair Raquel Gali was acknowledged for her commitment to both chairing the coalition from 2021-2022 and co-sponsoring the Policy IN Action retreat. Raquel was instrumental in the success of the two-day event by assisting with co-planning the training and coordinating delicious lunches, snacks and coffee for both days.
By the conclusion of the two-day retreat, participants were ready to take the next steps to engage with their communities in order to learn their stories, issues and ideas to combat alcohol misuse and harm. A few highlights from participants when asked theri reaction to the idea of community organizing: