Brief History of the ACES Coalition
Since 2001, students in the Avon Middle High School in grades 7-12 have been surveyed using the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (grade 6 was added in 2007). When the 2007 results were reviewed, it was noted that although the majority of Avon High School Students do not drink, the rates were too high and the rate for binge drinking (5 or more drinks within a few hours) had increased significantly.
In April 2008, two community educational forums were held which included powerful speakers and experts in the field of underage drinking. A scientist from McLean Hospital presented clear evidence that the adolescent brain is developing and re-organizing so rapidly during adolescence, that even occasional alcohol use can have an impact on the functioning of the brain. Experts also presented information about how to begin a discussion with your child, and what to do if you suspected a problem.
These successful forums culminated in the formation of the Avon Coalition for Every Student (ACES) in June of 2008, and members began to meet monthly with the guidance and technical advice of Southeast Center for Healthy Communities (now known as the Outcomes Project). Founding members included, the Police and Fire Chiefs, the Norfolk District Attorney’s office, Avon Counseling, South Bay Mental Health and three parents, the Avon Schools administration team and a member of the school committee.
Staff from the Outcomes Project in Brockton provided monthly training and facilitation, and helped ACES to develop its Vision and Mission statements, collect community information and data, identify risks and protective factors within the community that impact youth alcohol and drug use, understand and utilize the strategic planning process, and to understand how environmental strategies have been proven to have successful and long-term impact on communities in the field of prevention. During this process, ACES reviewed the data it had collected to date and decided to focus on youth alcohol and marijuana, with the understanding that as more data is collected that the focus may change to include other substances.
Almost all of this work was done on a volunteer/in-kind basis. In August 2008 A.C.E.S. received a $10,000 Healthy Communities grant. A requirement of this grant was a year-long Mass Forum training for coalition members. This Healthy Communities grant funded a part-time coordinator position through March of 2009, which along with the technical guidance enabled ACES to apply for the federal Drug Free Communities Grant. In September 2009, the coalition was notified it had been awarded the DFC grant, which is $125,000/year for up to 5 years.
Over the next five years, the coalition worked to drive down underage drinking rates, as well as youth tobacco and marijuana rates. The coalition employed a number of different strategies, resulting in a sharp decrease in youth substance abuse. In 2014, the coalition was notified that it had been awarded another round of Drug Free Communities funding for another 5 years. The coalition added prevention of prescription drug abuse to its goals in response to the opiate epidemic in Massachusetts.
This website was developed under a grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views, policies, and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of ONDCP, SAMHSA or HHS.