Written by Alicia Violette ‘19
This summer I worked with BRiDGES: Madison County Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc., whose mission is to provide advocacy and services to the local community, through the workplace, families, and individuals in order to improve the quality of life. They focus especially on those affected by addiction and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. They do this by implementing prevention and intervention programming in the community in order to promote change and work toward building a healthier community. This summer I was assigned to work with them in order to assess what substance use looks like in adults as well as in youth in the community. I was also attempting to determine what gaps exist in the services related to substance use as well as suicide prevention and the LGBTQ community in this area.
Working here I have learned that while BRiDGES main focus is alcohol and substance abuse, the programs that they introduce in the community have a much wider reach than just this. One of the main things that they have been focusing on recently is the opioid epidemic, which is a big issue in Madison County. While I was here this summer I was able to attend a training for the use of Narcan at BRiDGES. They often hold events like this for people to learn more about this issue and about what can be done in their community to help. Other programs that I was able to attend while I was here included a training titled “LGBTQ Youth: Clinical Strategies to Support Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” a Worksite Wellness meeting, and a Suicide Prevention Coalition meeting. These are just some of the issues that I have learned that BRiDGES attempts to address through their programming.
This summer I was analyzing data that will allow BRiDGES to apply for grants as well as show the progress they have been able to make as a result of grants that they have already been awarded. One of the main things that I did this summer was conducting a survey that asked residents of Madison County to identify the most pressing issues that they are seeing within the community, for both the youth and adults. The goal of this survey was to allow BRiDGES to learn about the issues that are present in the community in order to determine programs that could be implemented in the community and how they might be able to address these issues.
The work that I did at BRiDGES this summer fit into my studies because I am considering going into the field of public health. This position allowed me to get input from the community about their thoughts on the most pressing issues in their community, which in turn will allow programs to be implemented that are directly related to public health. Along with this I was also able to analyze data from programs that have already been implemented in an attempt to determine the success of these programs and if there may be areas in which they can be improved. One of the things that I learned this summer is the different components that go into community programing, starting with identifying issues and then deciding on programs, implementing them, and then assessing their success. This was my second summer participating in the Field School and my second summer working for BRiDGES. I was drawn to working with the Field School because it gave me a chance to work in Madison County and get to see this area in a different way than I normally would, and it also gave me a chance to make a difference in the community.