Finding information about substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery options has been a problem for both those seeking help and professional help-providers in recent years, especially in times of crisis.
“You’ve got people in urgent situations that need immediate help, may not know professional terminology or may not be in a position to pursue normal assistance channels,” says Lori Vish-Stearns, Executive Director of the Keystone Wellness Programs “We needed to eliminate the barriers that keep people from being able to reach out for help.”
Vish-Stearns and the CHC are part of the Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco Coalition (DATC) a multi-agency volunteer organization formed 11 years ago as a direct response to the heroin addiction problem that besieged the Butler area. Over the past decade, the group evolved from a task-force to a collaborative that includes over 40 community, government, healthcare, faith-based organizations and individuals working together to deal with the region’s substance abuse challenges.
The DATC needed a comprehensive solution to the problem of effectively reaching their target clients. Bill Halle, Founder & CEO of Grace Youth & Family Foundation (GYFF) has been working with the task force for 11 years. “All the organizations were creating and distributing materials – books, CDs, etc., and we had young people telling us ‘You can’t find any information about treatment when you really need it!’ We realized that they were right. You couldn’t go online and find any relevant content when you searched for ‘help’ and ‘butler’ and ‘drugs.’ The way our information was being delivered was not one that our potential clients could easily access.”
Enter the Butler First Step ™ web portal. The DATC contacted Pittsburgh-based marketing firm BOOM Supercreative and outlined the problems they were facing. BOOM created an online centralized resource system that utilizes a multi-user blog platform rather than a traditional website structure. “The biggest challenge was enabling so many different help-providers to each present their information cohesively, in one place, without violating any of the myriad privacy and communications policies that they all have to follow,” says Scott Dix, BOOM president. “We started with a messaging issue, and ended up establishing a pilot-program for a branded system that can work in any county in the country.”
The FirstStep™ system works simply and cleanly, allowing representatives from any participating group to log-in via a dashboard, add articles, links, calendar events, contact information, documents, and more on their own “page” while not affecting any other group’s content. By being part of a larger collected resource, the topics gain more search engine optimization than any one group could achieve.
Beth Neveux, Prevention Specialist for the Butler Drug & Alcohol Program and head of the Countywide Prevention Program is optimistic about the potential for success and expansion. “This is so far beyond what we ever dreamed of, the excitement level is very high among participating groups.” The program currently has 12 agencies on board and there are plans to expand in the near future. “Any substance abuse service providers can take part, and we want to eventually include mental and behavioral help-providers as well. The interest level from other counties is high. We’ve set the groundwork for a new wave of how people can access our services.”