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The Solutions Are in The Community

The setting was smack dab in the middle of the Madison Mountain Range, nestled at the base of Lone Peak which towers 11,166 feet into that big Montana sky. It’s as serene of a spot as you can get in Big Sky, MT, and for six S.T.E.P (Standing Together Embracing Prevention) coalition members from the Deer River School District it was the perfect back drop for a pep talk.

The team of six, most of whom drove to Big Sky to attend a four day Positive Community Norms (PCN) Conference, was excited about the opportunity to better learn how to make a positive impact on their community. The S.T.E.P. Coalition is made up of Independent School District (ISD) 317 parents, business owners, teachers and community members. Its goal is to delay and reduce alcohol use in area youth. The coalition works under the umbrella of The Movement campaign, which not only includes coalition members but also incorporates Deer River students. The campaign, the coalition and the PCN training in Montana are funded by a $1 million grant provided through Minnesota’s Department of Human Services (MN DHS-ADAD) Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division.

Much of the four days was focused on the theme of the conference, which was “The Solutions are in the Community,” meaning we, you and I who care deeply about Deer River, are part of the solution to making it an even better/healthier place to live. PCN teaches attendees how to use a seven step process to communicate a positive message to its community. The goal is to transform the way the public thinks. It reinforces the positive living being done in a community, yet keeps in mind there’s still concern. It’s concern with hope. It tells a new story. “Our goal is to close the gap between what people think is happening with underage drinking and what really is occurring with underage drinking in our communities. The PCN framework will help transform people’s understanding of our community and the misperception will no longer be the norm the real and positive data will become the norm," said S.T.E.P. Coalition Chair Chad Evans.

The seven core principles of PCN are as follows: Be Positive, Be Present, Be Perceptive, Be Purposeful, Be Perfected, Be Proactive and Be Passionate. These principles come with an action attached to them, for instance, Be Positive is where we start the planning and environmental advocacy action, or the place where we start the process; Be Purposeful is where the communication plan comes in to play, or when and how the positive message will get out to the community; and Be Passionate is where we stop to evaluate how successful the message was delivered and how successful it was received.
“I see the positive community norms model transforming the communities within ISD 317, not by reinventing the wheel, but by building on what the community already has. By fostering positive community norms together we will be able to use this strategic prevention framework to make lasting change and transformation,” added S.T.E.P. Coalition Assistant Chair Tanis Henderson.


More than 180 people from around the United States attended the conference, which ran July 9th through July 12th. Many conference attendees were Minnesotans who are also working to reduce and delay alcohol use in youth in their communities. Deer River is in phase two of the state’s effort to use PCN to combat early aged drinking and illegal substance abuse. The communities who participated in the first phase of the state’s efforts showed significant results. Those communities who used PCN in the first round saw a 30% decrease in youth alcohol use.

If you would like to be a part of The Movement you may contact Planning and Implementation Coordinator Ann Koetz by calling 246-8241 ext. 206 or emailing .