Beech Grove Community Drug Free Coalition Executive Director Diana Hendricks accepts national honor from CADCO President and CEO Gen. Barrye Price with members of the local coalition during specialy in City Hall.
By Al Stilley
A Washington-based advocacy organization bestowed its rare highest rating upon the Beech Grove Community Drug Free Coalition (CDFC) Friday in a special ceremony in City Hall.
The Southside organization received blue ribbon recognition for its positive youth development outreach-underage drinking prevention initiative in Beech Grove.
National organization president and CEO, Gen. Barrye Price, made the presentation and stated, “You represent what our commission represents – you do the work that is needed, especially for youth.”
Price emphasized there are 5,000 coalitions nationwide and internationally but only 34 groups in CADCO’s history have received the blue-ribbon award that now includes Beech Grove’s CDFC. (CADCO is the acronym for Community Based Advocacy Focused Data Driven Coalition Building Association.)
The uniqueness of Beech Grove’s CDFC was cited throughout the one-hour ceremony.
The Beech Grove CDFC also recognized the City of Beech Grove, Franciscan Health, and Beech Grove Police Department with awards.
Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley reminded the audience that the city was among municipalities that took part in Indiana to join in a national multi-billion dollar lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. Buckley said there have been some settlements already. He vowed that proceeds from those settlements would go to: the CDFC for education and anti-drug and alcohol prevention; the city for reimbursement of legal costs; and to Beech Grove City Schools for early childhood development and education.
Buckley did not reveal the value of settlements to the city or when it would occur.
“We (Beech Grove) are affected by this (youth drug and alcohol) addiction, but we have to keep going,”
Buckley said of the CDFC’s ongoing efforts of positive development outreach and prevention.
He also issued a city proclamation that Feb. 24 was “community partners day” in Beech Grove to honor the city’s CDFC’s 36 partners and 76 members.
“We are more than just a group of people who came together,” Diana Hendricks, Beech Grove CDFC executive director said. “Our coalition is a family so that our youth can have a good future … as a coalition we find need and resources.”
During the public ceremony, the coalition’s impact on youth has lessened the number of youths in Beech Grove who have tried alcohol, according to yearly surveys. The major challenge is to continue to educate and prevent drug usage as, Gen. Price pointed out, can be fatal to first time users who try fentanyl.
The CDFC honored the Franciscan Health for its participation in the development of the city’s Franciscan Trail that begins at Sarah T. Bolton Park and continues over several creeks in Beech Grove. The organization also reminded the audience of Franciscan’s roots in Beech Grove.
It was pointed out that teens who gathered near the various creekbanks have been reduced dramatically because of the public’s recreational usage of the trail.
The CDFC also honored the police department and its officers for its e-bicycle patrols of the trail and expanded patrols of Main Street.
State Rep. Mitch Gore, a community advocate and Marion County Sheriff’s Department captain, has seen the devastating effects that illegal drug usage has had on teenagers down through the years.
“Is anybody here surprised that we are one of the few communities that have ever received this award?” Gore asked. “I am not.”
Gore continued, “Beech Grove is a special place, a city within a city. We have retained our sense of small-town feel and that’s what has made this coalition work. They are working with the youth for prevention.”
Looking at all efforts to reduce alcohol and drug usage among teens, CDFC chair Kim Sharp said, “We can’t arrest our way out of this – it has to be through treatment and prevention.”
The CDFC’s roots go back to 2015 when pastors Dan Bailey and the late Paul Kirby began discussing the high drug and alcohol abuse by area teens and was formed in 2017. They gathered regularly at the mayor’s faith-based round table and eventually asked Hendricks, who had obtained national Community Health Education Specialist certification from the University of Indianapolis, to develop a community substance misuse program. Since then, the coalition has grown and embraced many partners, including Beech Grove City Schools and Franciscan Health, to be community advocates for education, prevention and treatment for youth and teenagers as well as parents.
The CDFC has been at the forefront of a prevention curriculum for Beech Grove Schools’ 4-9 grades, dissemination of prevention resources at community festivals and health fair, and offers community events on youth substance misuse and overdose awareness.
Summing up the CDFC’s ceremony Friday and its impact, Price stated, “We have grown from grassroots conversation to international recognition.
The coalition meets the fourth Tuesday of each month via zoom 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Individuals interested in attending the meetings may contact firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for an invite to the meeting.
Friday, Feb. 24 was proclaimed by the City of Beech Grove as Community Partners Day in honor of the 36 partners and 76 members of the Beech Grove Community Drug Free Coalition (CDFC). Mayor Dennis Buckley made the proclamation with CDFC chair Kim Sharp, left, and Executive Director Diana Hendricks.