By Genine Hopkins
It’s hard to walk into a new job when you’re replacing someone who is as dynamic as Sarah Kile was, but Audrey Bailey is up to the task, bringing a passion and energy to her new role as the Prevention Coordinator for Ten-Sixteen Recovery Network, serving the Clare and Gladwin areas. (Kile recently accepted a job with the Central Michigan District Health Department.) A recent CMU graduate, Bailey has accepted the challenge and intends to make Clare County a better place to live and work once she’s done.
Bailey grew up far from Northern/Mid-Michigan, raised in Toledo, Ohio. Originally, Bailey desired to teach elementary level math but realized that she couldn’t see herself doing that for the rest of her life. Still, she wanted to make a difference, leave the world a better place, and switching her major/minor form Education to Families/Substance Abuse was a wise move, something that will use her enthusiasm to make a real difference in the lives of others.
“Substance abuse is such a major issue in America today, and once I interned with Ten-Sixteen I knew I wanted to stay here in Michigan and help people. The job offer was the final piece that fell into place,” she said.
Bailey is coming into her position as Ten-Sixteen is beginning a new “system” that is called CTC – Communities That Care. In her opinion, this uses a number of tried and proven methods to help curb underage drinking and prescription drug abuse.
“At our conference, one of the leaders of this program shared their success using the system and it was truly awe-inspiring!” Bailey stated, “I feel like this system re-invigorates how we look at prevention in substance abuse.”
This energetic former intern and now employee understands that her success hinges in a large part on the ability of the community to respond. Community buy-in – from both “area leaders” such as teachers, criminal justice and political figures and from citizens and students – is the cornerstone of both Bailey’s belief in what a successful program should include and what CTC strives to accomplish.
“Simply telling people what they should or shouldn’t do doesn’t necessarily work well, especially for teens,” she told the Review, “Pulling everyone in the community together and mobilizing them to support each other and develop new concepts of what health living consists of is key; there has to be ownership by the community at large.”
The CTC system, which is just rolling out, has five “phases” which will stretch out over the year with conferences to support and teach prevention specialists nationwide about the methods and how to maximize participation and success. Bailey’s job will including building that coalition from the ground up, gathering both civic leaders and stakeholders to examine what they feel would best work in Clare County.
Working with the goals of Ten-Sixteen, NEMSAS, and the new CTC system combined, the goal is to educate, educate, educate.
“It’s getting the word out about prescription drugs and underage drinking. With the prescription medication, Clare and Gladwin counties each have a 24 hour drop box for unused medication, so the groundwork has already been laid down. Letting people know to monitor, secure and properly dispose of their prescription medication is key to combating this problem.”
Then comes the fun part; finding the funding!
Indeed, funding has become a major issue, especially after the Sequester, but Bailey isn’t going to accept that governmental and private agencies are merely downsizing.
“This is too big of an area of concern to America. Trying to save money by cutting or eliminating programs such as Ten-Sixteen and other local programs will only magnify the issue. I am confident that we will make sure to find the means to make this CTC system work.”
Some of the problems Bailey is tackling that is specific to Clare County can take your breath away. The average age of first use of alcohol in Clare County is 11.2 years old. Most youth who have admitted to using prescription medication, stated they obtained the drugs from the family and friends of theirs, stealing a pill here or there right from the medicine cabinet.
“This is why it is so important to look at your prescriptions in a new light, change the culture. Gone are the days when family members stored their prescription medication – mostly just antibiotics and such – right in the family bathroom medicine cabinet. Monitoring and storing them safely provides some control and eliminates this kind of theft,” she said.
Bailey also hopes to open the dialogue with local ER nurses and other healthcare professionals to attack the problem of availability.
“ER nurses often are the ones most likely to recognize ‘regular’ drug seeking patients and if they can notify their supervisors, efforts can be made to stop that type of behavior and get treatment options for the patients who need it.”
Power is Knowledge. This is what Bailey feels is at the core of the ability of a community to successfully tackle its substance abuse culture and make a change for healthier living.
“Once we get the word out, I know that Clare County will step up to the plate and take control of their own future.”