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Riverhead Community Coalition earns top award for efforts to limit substance abuse

As the youth sector representative for the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth, Maximilian Solarz said communicating with community leaders is just one key way the coalition plans to achieve its goal of preventing underage alcohol and drug abuse.

Educating the public on problems confronting youth, through PSAs and speaking at community events, support that goal.

Those efforts and more were rewarded as the coalition was recently named Coalition of the Year and received the Coalition of Excellence Award from the  Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the nation’s leading substance abuse prevention organization.

“This award shows how hard we’ve worked to get closer to our goal, which is to prevent underage alcohol and drug abuse within our community,” said Maximilian, a Riverhead High School senior.

The award is part of CADCA’s GOT Outcomes! award program, which gives national recognition to exemplary coalitions that have clearly documented their impact on population-level substance abuse outcomes.

“On behalf of our coalition members and the Riverhead community, we are honored to receive the highest award from CADCA for the positive outcomes we demonstrated,” said Felicia Scocozza, executive director of Riverhead Community Awareness Program.

Ms. Scocozza said the coalition will formally accept the award in February 2020 at CADCA’s National Leadership Forum. It also received the award for intermediate outcomes in 2018 and short-term outcomes in 2017.

Ms. Scocozza said the coalition identified root causes and local conditions that contributed to high rates of underage drinking. They collaboratively implemented environmental strategies that best fit the community.

Some of those strategies included the establishment of alcohol retail compliance checks, pre-prom policies, responsible server training and Riverhead’s first comprehensive alcohol policy for public events.

Binge drinking among Riverhead High School students from 2008 to 2018 decreased by 42% and 30-day alcohol use decreased by 22% in that time frame. The coalition attributed that to partnerships with the Riverhead Police Department, Riverhead Central School District, Riverhead Youth Coalition and the Town of Riverhead.

“Our coalition is driven by members with energy, expertise and a dedication to our mission,” said Kelly Miloski, coalition coordinator and community prevention specialist at Riverhead CAP.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said the coalition is an outstanding organization, made up of both adult and youth groups.

“I am so proud of all Riverhead Community Coalition members and sectors that have helped not only achieve this top award, but more importantly in keeping Riverhead a safe place for our youth,” he said.

Photo caption: CADCA Chairman and CEO General Arthur Dean presents the 2018 Coalition of Excellence Award for Intermediate Outcomes to Felicia Scocozza, Kelly Miloski, Cynthia Redmond and Chief David Hegermiller in February. (Courtesy photo)

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