The national trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges and opportunities for community coalitions who rely on methods of engagement, education, interaction, and dialogue. This article describes how the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) coalitions in South Carolina adapted to changing circumstances emerging from COVID-19. Using personal experiences and semi-structured interviews with ten DFCs, the authors describe ways community coalitions have modified their education, prevention, and environmental strategies in light of the current pandemic and uncertain future. The authors present a prospective adaptation framework (e.g., Model for Adaptation Design and Impact-MADI) and an illustrative example for how coalitions can use structured questions to determine the benefits and risks of an adaptation and the impact it may have on desired outcomes.

Key Take Away Points

--During the COVID-19 pandemic, DFC community coalitions are able to adapt their prevention action plan and sustain their presence in the community.

--Community partnerships have been critical to the success of the DFC coalitions as they pivot to adapt their environmental strategies and engage communities in a virtual format.

--The coalitions experienced unintended positive outcomes during the pandemic including increased attendance in virtual meetings, engagement of traditionally hard-to-reach members, and new partnerships for ongoing collaborative planning.

--The Model for Adaptation Design and Impact (MADI) is a prospective framework that community coalitions can use to systematically modify and adapt their community-based strategies in a prospective way.

Author Biography

Dr. Pam Imm is a community psychologist with extensive experience in the areas of prevention program development, program evaluation and applied prevention research. She has been working with the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) and Support program since its inception and is a co-author of the Getting to Outcomes ® accountability model. The GTO planning, implementation, and evaluation model was first implemented with DFCs in 1999 with support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). She was also an invited member of the small workgroup that finalized the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) in the early 2000s. Dr. Imm is currently a coalition coordinator with the Lexington One Community Coalition (LOCC) that was successfully sustained after completion of its funding cycles. Her recent scholarship includes chapters in Adolescent Substance Abuse and the Prevention of Substance Use both published by Springer. In 2015, the Society for Community Research & Action recognized Dr. Imm with the Distinguished Contributions to Community Psychology Practice award. She is currently affiliated with LRADAC, the alcohol and drug abuse authority of Richland and Lexington Counties as well as the Wandersman Center as a senior research associate. Dr. Ann Price is President of Community Evaluation Solutions, Inc. an evaluation firm she founded in 2004. Ann and her team conduct evaluations in many areas including community collaboratives, youth substance abuse prevention, youth development, foster care advocacy, education, and public health. Much of her work is with community coalitions and collaboratives with a focus on systems change. Ann is an active member of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), the Atlanta Affiliate of AEA, and serves as co-chair of the Nonprofit and Foundation Topical Interest Group. She conducts workshops and trainings throughout the country including the AEA/CDC Summer Institute. Her work is published in several peer-reviewed journals on topics related to coalitions as a mechanism for social change, success stories and public health prevention and evaluation. Alexis Kirk is the Director of Implementation Science at the Centerstone's Research Institute in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Kirk received her PhD in Health Policy and Management from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where her coursework and research focused on implementation science and organizational studies. Dr. Kirk’s research and coursework has focused on exploring all levels of implementation, including individual behavior change, behavior change in groups and teams, and organizational-level change. Dr. Kirk’s dissertation research focused on the adaptation of interventions to tailor them to new settings, health populations, and local contexts. In her current work, Dr. Kirk provides implementation support to organizations and communities to build capacity for creating meaningful change. She brings close to 10 years of experience in the federal healthcare sector, working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to design and implement federal quality reporting programs for post-acute care settings, mainly hospice.

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We appreciate information provided by the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services, MADD South Carolina as well as the following agencies that proudly support community coalitions: Axis I of Barnwell County, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, Chester County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Cornerstone, The Forrester Center for Behavioral Health, Greenville County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Keystone Substance Abuse Services of York County, LRADAC, Shoreline Behavioral Health Services, The Alpha Center, The Kennedy Center, and Westview Behavioral Health Services of Newberry County.