Giving Local Coalitions Tools and Support to Stop Overdose Deaths


Coalition planning meeting

Thanks to PHI's California Overdose Prevention Network, more than 30 coalitions—reaching 85% of Californians—share ideas, learn better methods, and discover the latest strategies to prevent new addictions, increase access to treatment, and stop overdose deaths. 

30+ coalitions throughout CA helping to prevent addiction and stop overdoses

100% of participating coalitions are implementing naloxone distribution

70% implementing local policy changes

80% promoting harm reduction services

In 2018, PHI’s California Overdose Prevention Network (COPN) launched an Accelerator Program to support local coalitions to strive for greater impact within their communities, focused on preventing new addictions, increasing access to treatment, and stopping overdose deaths.

Now more than 30 coalitionsreaching 85% of Californiansshare ideas, learn better methods, and discover the latest strategies to prevent new addictions, increase access to treatment, and stop overdose deaths.

COPN is a program of PHI’s Center for Health Leadership and Impact (CHLI). In February 2020, CHLI also launched the National Overdose Prevention Network (NOPN) with a vision to transform the field across the country. NOPN is a national learning community, designed to support local, regional and statewide overdose prevention efforts that draw communities together to save lives.

COPN: The largest overdose prevention network in California and the nation

COPN coverage mapWith support from expert coaches, coalitions participating in our COPN Accelerator 3.0 program use tools that support long-term community impact. Teams have the tools they need to measure and communicate their impact and build a foundation for a new or expanded community intervention. Learning groups help teams focus on a strategy or area of interest of their choice, giving them the ability to customize the program experience to meet the specific needs within their local community.

COPN also sponsors the largest AmeriCorps VISTA program dedicated to opioid safety in the country, with the capacity to place 40 VISTA members in coalitions across the state.

Helping coalitions adopt a health equity lens

Our country’s response to drug use—from supportive treatment policies to punitive sentencing practices—is highly unequal by race and class. The Health Equity Tool aids coalitions or groups in organizing their big picture thinking around health equity. Coalitions can begin using this tool by defining their work, the context, and the why before completing the rest of the worksheet to address inequities in their communities with a thoughtful approach.

Case study: Drug Safe Solano

Throughout the COPN Accelerator 2.0 Program, Solano kept coming back to one thing: equity. They chose to focus on being more inclusive by engaging with the community through providing services and gaining partners, building trust and stronger relationships, and adopting Trauma-Informed Care practices and policies. They included new partners in their coalition such as people impacted by substance use disorder as well as Project Roomkey, an organization that works with people experiencing homelessness, to further their commitment to equity.
Health equity is not just health equity, it's also social justice, it's also social equity, so we try to adopt a more holistic approach to that. Arthur Camargo

Drug Safe Solano Coordinator

Helping coalitions foster new connections

Coalitions need more than an “elevator speech” when preparing to engage new partners. Effective messaging helps others understand what your coalition is, what it is you are doing, and most importantly, how they can support your efforts. The COPN Accelerator 2.0 Persuasive Narrative Tool helped coalitions introduce their work with power, developing stories that broke through the clutter and address their audience’s needs.

Case study: El Dorado Opioid Coalition

The El Dorado Opioid Coalition took a personal approach to their messaging when creating new partnerships. Throughout the COPN Accelerator 2.0 Program, they focused on building trust and relationships with faith-based communities in their county. The Persuasive Narrative Tool broke down the messaging process and helped the coalition streamline their research to pinpoint which churches and congregations would be the most receptive to their partnership. The coalition was successful in conducting interviews with church members and onboarding three new members into their coalition.
We really worked a lot with the Persuasive Narrative Tool to develop a script that we could use to find intersections on where our work dissects or comes together [with the faith-based community]. Kirsten Rogers

Project Manager

Supporting coalition strategic partnership development

Strong partnerships are essential to the success of any coalition. The Partnership Mapping Tool is a customized tool used support coalition building efforts in leveraging existing local resources. This tool can be used in the initial formation stages of a coalition and/or at any time along the way in a coalition’s life cycle. Coalitions can begin using this tool to map potential strategic partnerships in their communities to further their local overdose prevention efforts.

Case study: Contra Costa County MEDS Coalition

Building community partnerships was key for the Contra Costa County MEDS Coalition. County data allowed the coalition to identify target populations to engage and the Partnership Mapping Tool aided them in selecting critical partners such as school counselors and administrators to further expand their overdose prevention efforts throughout Contra Costa County. Keeping this tool at the forefront of their work during the program led to multiple, successful community partnerships including the American Medical Response (AMR), the Rainbow Community Center, Substance Use Navigators (SUNs), La Familia, and more.
We used the Accelerator program and the Partnership Mapping Tool to help us identify: who are the critical players, who did we feel like we needed to outreach to, and we began that process by having focus sessions with individuals [community stakeholders]. April Rovero

Coalition Chairperson

Helping coalitions pinpoint their priorities

Coalitions must revisit their “big picture” goals as their work continues to grow and evolve. The Big Picture Tool is a customized tool designed to organize coalition thinking and help summarize the work in a 1-page visual. Coalitions used this tool at the beginning of the COPN Accelerator 2.0 Program to anchor their work forming strategic partnerships throughout the program year. This tool fostered a shared understanding between Accelerator 2.0 team members about their goals and next steps for the program. 

Case study: San Benito County Opioid Task Force

San Benito County was heavily impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Their coalition used the Big Picture Tool to re-focus their work and stay on track with their overdose prevention goals throughout the program. Being a small county with fewer resources, they successfully fostered a tri-county partnership with two other COPN coalitions. Their biggest successes over the course of the program included: 1) facilitating systems change between their county behavioral health department and a local hospital by identifying social worker to bridge communication gaps; 2) developing a substance use curriculum for middle and high schoolers; and 3) built an inclusive website with English and Spanish resources.
The COPN Accelerator 2.0 Program has been really helpful in continuing to build the coalition. This program gave us structure in an action oriented trajectory, even with COVID-19, it was helpful to have these different goals and objectives from Accelerator 2.0. Veronica Johnson

Health Educator II and Program Coordinator

Helping coalitions build multi-sector partnerships

Communities around the nation are bringing local stakeholders together to implement real solutions that save lives. Stopping overdose deaths requires collaboration with key partners from your community. The Featured Strategic Partnerships Tool was built to accompany other tools in the COPN Accelerator 2.0 Program to help coalitions consider which organizations that they wanted to partner with to further their local overdose prevention efforts. Coalitions used this tool to think about why they wanted to partner with certain sectors, what the value proposition might be for the potential partner, and to brainstorm strategy areas where the potential partner can best support the coalition’s mission and vision.

Case study: Butte Glenn Opioid Safety Coalition

The Feature Strategic Partnerships Tool helped the Butte Glenn Opioid Safety Coalition re-engage with law enforcement during COVID-19. Their biggest success was achieving a change in policy and getting naloxone in jails. During the COPN Accelerator 2.0 Program, they launched a pilot program that gives inmates that are leaving the jail an overdose prevention kit that includes naloxone and related information and resources. The coalition’s engagement with law enforcement during the program was so successful that a former police chief presented his research on community overdose rates at the coalition’s virtual summit last fall. His research was a call to action for coalition partners to work together to combat overdoses which led to his participation on their Accelerator 3.0 team for the following program year.
For us, it was the perfect time to focus on law enforcement, plus we were doing the CDPH opioid grant which focused on the criminal justice system as partners, so it really worked well to combine the Accelerator 2.0 program with our CDPH grant and do the outreach [with law enforcement] to try to affect some policy change. Monica Soderstrom

Division Director, Community Health

Coalition Activities & Impact

The following shows the percent of coalitions indicating “In Progress” or “Completed” for this selection of coalition activities during March 1, 2021 – August 31, 2021:
  • 30% Implementing Academic Detailing
  • 70% Promoting Adoption of Safe Prescribing Guidelines
  • 100% Using Opioid Safety/ Surveillance Data at Local Level
  • 80% Increasing Access to MAT
  • 50% Promoting healthy pain management and alternatives
  • 100% Implementing Naloxone Distribution
  • 70% Implementing Local Policy Changes
  • 90% Increasing Public Awareness of Opioid Safety
  • 80% Promoting Harm Reduction Services
  • 90% Collaborating with Law Enforcement
  • 100% Working with At-Risk Populations


A version of this impact story was first published on the COPN site

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