Community coalitions make a difference.
Coalitions and community partners were praised for their work with Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services Wednesday, Nov. 8 during a presentation at Culpeper Baptist Church.
RRCS Prevention Specialist Alan Rasmussen highlighted the work the many coalitions in the community do to help raise awareness of suicide and opioid addiction in Culpeper and the surrounding counties.
“The purpose of this is to celebrate some of the work that is going on in our area,” Rasmussen said.
The importance of a community coalition is that is a cornerstone of creating successful change – either by addressing an ongoing problem or stopping one before it starts.
Culpeper and the surrounding counties have a diverse group of community partners who join together to solve a common problem.
Many of those coalitions have been formed from grief and tragedy.
Ed and Gloria Long started the Living the Dream Foundation after their son Ben committed suicide following an addiction to heroin. He was a smart young man, an Eagle Scout and always seemed full of life. It was a shock to them when he died and now they want to help spread awareness to make a difference – coalitions can do that.
“I think that the more we get together, the more of an impact we can make,” Ed said.
Culpeper Town Police Department Chief Chris Jenkins knows the pain of loss all too well. His son Jordan committed suicide and now he works with his non-profit, Team Jordan, to help others facing suicide.
“Together we are stronger,” Jenkins said. “When you’re faced with adversity, there’s a fight or flight mechanism. We chose to fight. These are all tough subjects that people don’t want to talk about.”
In this day and age, it’s becoming all too common to read of young people dying from overdoses or suicide. The coalition’s want to talk about their experiences, their pain, their grief so others don’t have to face the same thing.
“Everyone has suffered a loss,” Gloria said. “People can be unaware of depression and unaware of the type of depression you’re slipping into.”
The numbers of overdoses in the community is staggering, according to the Blue Ridge Task Force there have been 182 overdoses in the six-county area it covers with 28 deaths.
“We’ve had our share of opioid overdoses and our share of suicides over the years,” Ed said. “You always hear how great Culpeper is and how great a place this is to live. Why is it happening here? It emphasizes it can happen to anyone.”
Following their son’s death, Ed and Gloria took the gatekeeper training offered by RRCS that helps identify suicide risk. Ben showed 11 of the 12 signs of suicide, but until their training, they had no clue.
Brenda and Junior Bowers started the Rusty Bowers Suicide Prevention Coalition after their son Rusty committed suicide. Now, they host an annual walk and a bowling event to help raise funds for prevention.
“It helps a lot,” Brenda Bowers said. “I think it helps to put Rusty’s name out there associated with suicide, we just want to make a difference. If we can help one person, we’ve done our job. This is all hard to talk about, but we have to talk to each other.”
Jenkins said while helping nationally is important, the Culpeper coalitions keep their money locally.
“It’s important these coalitions are based in this community and the money helps this community,” Jenkins said. “Every single dollar stays here and it helps.”
Rasmussen praised the coalition’s as a team of “we.”
“It’s a ‘we’ thing,” he said. “We are leaders in hope.”
Part of that hope is partnering together. There’s a strength in numbers that can help head off tragedies before they start.
“I hear all the time that people learn that they can spot people and head off tragedies,” Rasmussen said.
Coalitions bring people together who have different skill sets and expertise and partnerships help find solutions others wouldn’t think possible. Rasmussen praised coalitions formed from tragedy including Come As You Are, started by Moira Satre after the drug overdose loss of her son, Team Jordan, the Rusty Bowers Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Living the Dream Foundation.
The coalitions RRCS works with have raised more than $150,000 since Rasmussen started working with them.
“I just want to thank the coalitions for all they do,” Rasmussen said.