The Vernon County Health Department and the Vernon County Prevention Team are joining forces to put on a Community Conversations Dinner at the Viroqua Community Arena, 858 Nelson Parkway, Thursday, Aug. 22, from 5-8 p.m.
Amy Kleiber, a public health nurse with the Health Department, said the county received a Prevention Health and Health Services Block Grant funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said the grant allows the county to focus on a community need — substance use and prevention.
“The Community Conversations Dinner is for the community to share their thoughts about substance use and learn about services and prevention efforts in the county,” Kleiber said. “It’s a meet and greet.”
Kleiber said this type of event has not been done before in Vernon County.
The family-focused event will allow attendees to talk with the area prevention team, mental health service providers, public health staff, local law enforcement and other resource providers.
There will be educational booths and children’s activities, including face painting, coloring and other games. There will also be an opportunity to explore topics such as social media’s influence on vaping and drug use, perceptions of marijuana, and physical signs and symptoms of drug use.
A free community meal will be provided. No reservations are needed. The meal will be first-come, first-served until the food runs out. The menu will include pulled pork, beans, coleslaw, hot dogs, milk, water, coffee and cookies. Gluten free buns will also be available in limited quantity.
Kleiber said she hopes the event gives people a sense of community and removes any stigma related with substance use. “We want to make the conversation accessible to everybody.”
“We want it to be an enjoyable community event before school starts,” she said. “Everyone can come and enjoy a meal and games for kids and meet the community.”
Jeana LeJeune, MS, LPC, CSW, with Schmidt Consulting LLC/Driftless Counseling LLC, a member of the Vernon County Prevention Team, said event organizers are hoping to learn what the attendees are most concerned about in regard to substance abuse in Vernon County.
“We also want to give them a chance to meet representatives from various organizations in Vernon County who are equally concerned and actively working on goals to reduce substance use,” she said. “We want Vernon County citizens to know they are not alone in their concerns.”
LeJeune said other organizations, including the Viroqua Police Department, Vernon County Trauma Taskforce, Stonehouse Counseling, Independent Living Resources and several others will be available to share in the conversation. If there are any other organizations that would like to be present, Lejeune said there is still time to get involved. Organizations can email event organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kleiber said another part of the event is a survey that has been formulated to allow people to voice their thoughts and/or concern around substance use. The survey has been distributed at the Viroqua Night Markets this summer. A school-age survey has also been formulated.
The confidential survey forms will also be available at the dinner. Anyone interested in completing a survey who cannot attend the event is welcome to do so and may contact the Health Department at 608-637-5251.
Vernon County Prevention TeamThe Vernon County Prevention Team began meeting with Kleiber at the end of April to begin planning the event.
LeJeune said Vernon County Prevention services have existed for many years, but has been growing in numbers and is hoping to expand its collaboration within other county agencies in the coming months.
The core prevention team consists of Paul Schmidt, licensed clinical social worker and substance abuse counselor who provides supervision for the programming they do, licensed substance abuse/mental health counselors LeJeune and Jessica Leinberger, licensed nurse Emma Hood, and an intern, Robin Hoseman, an educator currently in training at Viterbo University in the Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program.
“Our core team members are contracted employees of Schmidt Consulting, LLC located in Viroqua,” LeJeune said. “Schmidt Consulting, LLC currently holds the contract with Vernon County DHS (Department of Human Services) for the delivery of the prevention services.”
The team’s goal, LeJeune said, is to reduce risk for substance abuse among youth by providing evidence-based prevention, education, outreach and services.
“We offer evidence-based substance abuse prevention curriculum to youth and also teach workshops to parents on how to help their children reduce their risk of alcohol and other drug abuse,” LeJeune said. “While much of our programming has been provided in a school setting, we offer services to other youth organizations as well. We present at health fairs and town halls and can provide a wide array of prevention services.”
LeJeune said that as the team continues to expand its work, any community member or organization interested in working with the team on an ongoing basis and being a part of the county’s prevention efforts is invited to send a message to email@example.com.