Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America chairman and CEO Gen. Arthur Dean presents the 2018 Coalition of Excellence Award for Intermediate Outcomes to Felicia Scocozza, Kelly Miloski, Cynthia Redmond and Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller at the 2019 National Leadership Forum in February.

Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth has been named Coalition of the Year by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the nation’s leading substance abuse prevention organization.

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

The coalition’s successful 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. The coalition’s partnerships with the Riverhead Police Department, Riverhead Central School District, Riverhead Youth Coalition, and the Town of Riverhead resulted in a 42% decrease in binge drinking and a 22% decrease in 30-day alcohol use among Riverhead High School students from 2008 to 2018, according to survey data.

Riverhead Community Coalition will receive the award on Feb. 6 during Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America’s 2020 national leadership forum in National Harbor, Maryland.

This is the third consecutive Coalition of Excellence Award for the coalition, which received the award for short-term outcomes in 2017 and intermediate outcomes in 2018. In their most recent application, the coalition was able to demonstrate long-term outcomes as well.

“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, the lead coordinating agency for the Riverhead Community Coalition. “Achieving long-term outcomes is a slow, methodical process that requires strong community partnerships and participation. The idea is that local people solve local problems best and communities support what they create.”

To achieve success, coalitions have to determine effective solutions to substance abuse in their community. According to Scocozza, the Riverhead Community 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. Environmental strategies are interventions which change community conditions that contribute to youth substance abuse.

“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. “As a result, we have become a powerful force for change in the Riverhead community. Each member brings a unique asset to the table that has contributed to the achievements that we are being recognized for. These achievements include positive changes that impact everyone who lives, works, and visits our community.”

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller, an active coalition partner, said he was amazed but not surprised to be named Coalition of the Year.

“We have an outstanding coalition made up of both adult and youth groups. We have done a lot of positive work in helping to reduce underage drinking in our community,” Hegermiller said. “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.”

Riverhead High School senior Maximilian Solarz is the youth sector representative for the coalition and has participated in numerous Riverhead Youth Coalition initiatives, including presentations to lawmakers and radio PSAs, which are written and recorded by youth members five times per year.

“I think the biggest thing we do is educate the public on the problems that are going on with youth,” Solarz said. “There are many ways we spread the word, many of them at community events. The medium that reaches the most people has to be the radio PSAs. We talk to many community leaders and others that will help us in the long run,” he said. “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.”

Source: Riverhead CAP press release

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.