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About RCASA

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Ms. Erica McNamara MPH
Director, Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse, Town of Reading
Phone
(781) 942-6793
Bio
Ms. Erica McNamara, MPH, is the Director of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse (RCASA) with the Town of Reading (2008-present) overseeing mental health promotion and substance abuse prevention projects. She currently manages Reading’s Drug Free Communities grant project through the U.S. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. She is a Certified Instructor for Mental Health First Aid USA and teaches the Youth, Adult, Public Safety and Higher Education courses.

Prior to RCASA, she served as the Director of Adolescent Health & Youth Development at Lowell Community Health Center in Lowell, MA where she managed five after-school prevention projects. She was the Director/Principal Investigator of the Cambodian Youth Development Partnership funded by the U.S. SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Ms. McNamara developed programs focused on Asset-Based Youth Development, Teen Pregnancy, HIV, STDs, Substance Abuse, Violence, and Gang Prevention blending innovative and evidence-based approaches. Ms. McNamara was with LCHC for 12 years and previously served as a VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America), Gang Outreach Worker, HIV Prevention Educator, and ESL Teacher.

She graduated with Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Additionally, she completed the Suffolk University Community Health Management Training and the Master of Public Health Programs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

She has taught a range of evidence-based curricula including Creating Lasting Family Connections substance abuse prevention series, Reducing the Risk, and Changing Scenes. She has presented at both regional and national conferences including CADCA's Coalition Monumental Impact Conference, Massachusetts Connecting for Change Statewide Youth Summit, American Public Health Association, United States Conferences on AIDS, and the National HIV Prevention Conference.

Want to learn more about our coalition's performance?

View Coalition Snapshot reports

- 6 page Reading Coalition Snapshot (2018)

MA-20410-10_Coalition_Snapshot_2018.pdf

- 10 page Reading Coalition Snapshot (2018)

MA-20410-10_Detailed_Coalition_Report_2018.pdf

View RCASA Annual Reports

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In response to 110 opioid-related hospitalizations and nine overdose deaths (2003-2005), the Board of Selectmen appointed a committee in 2006 to address the town’s substance abuse problem.  Because of the committee’s report, the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse (RCASA) was formed as a collaborative approach to substance abuse prevention based on the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF).  Local leaders defined their vision, mission and bylaws, filed for 501c3 status and enlisted the Town of Reading as their fiscal agent.  The Data Workgroup formed to gather and analyze data from police, EMS, Youth Risk Behavior Survey and a Coalition Readiness Survey.  Focus groups and interviews with residents, faith leaders and emergency room staff yielded more data supporting the need for substance abuse prevention.  

Following the assessment, leaders developed a logic model, strategic plan and defined goals as:

1) Strengthen community collaboration

2) Reduce youth substance abuse. 

From 2007-2012, grant funds from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Prevention enabled paid staff to establish an office at Reading Police Department, collect valuable data, train volunteers, engage youth and build capacity.  According to stakeholders, staff and youth leaders built the momentum necessary to change policies.  School Committee mandated a breathalyzer policy at dances, changed school search/seizure policies, added K-9 drug searches, added school substance use supports/sanctions, implemented new health classes and improved Chemical Health Regulations.  Board of Selectman approved 17 liquor policy changes, Town Meeting passed a by-law prohibiting public marijuana consumption and youth inspired the Board of Health to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies.  Police launched the first 24/7 medication drop off in the region and collected 10,000 bottles.  Police rolled out a program for residents to text anonymous tips, enacted a Zero Tolerance Policy and initiated juvenile diversion programming.  

RCASA influenced healthy social norms and reduced risk behaviors as measured by the Reading Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2005-2013).  Amongst middle school age youth, lifetime alcohol use and alcohol use before age 13 declined by 10%.  Current alcohol use and youth in cars with alcohol-impaired drivers went down three percent.  Lifetime cigarette use decreased by eight percent.  Marijuana use before age 13 went down six percent.  More youth reported ‘having an adult to talk in school about their concerns’, an increase of five percent.  Amongst high school age youth, lifetime alcohol use and current alcohol use declined seven percent.  Impaired driving rates declined by three percent.  Current cigarette use went down seven percent and lifetime marijuana use went down six percent.  More youth reported ‘having an adult to talk in school about their concerns’, an increase of four percent.

RCASA Grant Development

The coalition has been primarily funded through grants. RCASA has applied for 19 grants totaling $1,837,668 and were awarded $1,588,727 in grant funds to reduce substance abuse in Reading. This represents a success rate of 76% in an extremely competitive field.

Since 2006, the Town of Reading has dedicated match resources to support the coalition including office space at the Reading Police Department, Finance Oversight, and much more.

In 2019, RCASA will complete their last federal grant year under the Drug Free Communities Program and transition to Town of Reading funding. The Director will continue to research potential funding prospects to support the coalition's work.

Currently funded grant written by the RCASA Director:

  • 5-year grant for RCASA/Town of Reading to procure $625,000 from SAMHSA/White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy office for substance abuse prevention (APPROVED, ENDS 9/29/19)

Past Grants written and procured by RCASA Director:

Grant

Source

Amount

Type

Years

Project

Summary of Benefits

Reading Hospital Trustees

Board of Trustees

$6,000

1x $2k, 1x $4k

2016-2017

Interface Referral Service 

128 Reading families matched with Mental Health Service providers

Project AWARE (President’s Projects of Significance)

SAMHSA Mental Health

$100,000

2yr grant

2014-2016

Implement Mental Health First Aid training for school staff, police and community

37 training classes taught by local instructors certified 608 adults in Reading

Health Resources in Action (formerly Med. Found.)

STATE PASS THRU- Tobacco Prevention

$3,000

1x grant

2012-2013

RCASA Youth Crew educated community stakeholders on tobacco advertising

Youth conducted 4 community presentations on tobacco advertising and participated in 2 statewide events.

The Medical Foundation

STATE PASS THRU-Healthy Communities

$10,000

1x grant

2006

Reading Healthy Communities Project

Developed RCASA Strategic Plan; Paid for consultant; 6 town staff trained in 9 month Healthy Communities model

The Medical Foundation

STATE PASS THRU-Healthy Communities

$10,000.

1x grant

2008

RCASA Youth Crew Photovoice Project

20 youth trained to use 10 digital cameras to shoot 1700 photos; 300 piece photo display created; Recognized by MADD and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America

The Medical Foundation

STATE PASS THRU- Tobacco Prevention

$10,000.

1x grant

 

2008

RCASA Youth Crew Block Project

500 piece art display designed by local children; 25 classroom presentations for elementary children conducted by RCASA Youth on tobacco prevention

Attorney General's Office (funds from Purdue Pharma lawsuit)

STATE- Alcohol & Rx Prevention

$71,966

1x grant

2008

RCASA Training & Development Project

Supported staffing costs; RCASA media products designed and advertised; Police training; surveys conducted; Selectman trained; youth and parent presentation; alcohol policies reviewed and changed.

MA Exec. Office of Public Safety & Security

STATE- Underage Alcohol Enforcement

$45,000

1x grants (re-applied annually)

2008-2017

Reading Police Alcohol Compliance

Detectives Division trained in Alcohol Compliance Operations; Officers conducted compliance programs for all Reading licencees.

Drug Free Communities

FEDERAL-

Office of National Drug Control Policy &

SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Prevention

$499,979.

5 yr grant (renewal annually until 2012)

2008-2012

Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse

1.5 FTE, evaluation services, in state and national training for RCASA staff and 2 officers, materials development, Text a Tip, Rx Round Up, Youth Crew Programs developed.

SAMHSA Town Hall Event

FEDERAL- Underage Drinking

$3,000

1x stipend (applied annually)

2008-2012

Community Dialogue Events

RCASA hosted community dialogues focused on underage drinking.  Youth recruited.

Health Resources in Action (formerly Med. Found.)

STATE PASS THRU- Tobacco Prevention

$3,750

1x grant

2011

RCASA Youth Crew Other Tobacco Product Surveys Project

12 youth locally trained; 105 surveys of tobacco retailers; 67 adults locally trained; 7 youth & 1 adult received statewide training

Health Resources in Action (formerly Med. Found.)

STATE PASS THRU- Tobacco Prevention

$5,000

1x grant 

2011

RCASA Youth Crew- Banning Tobacco in Pharmacies

15 youth trained; Board of Health trained on key health and legal issues; Tobacco banned in 4 local pharmacies.

Health Resources in Action (formerly Med. Found.)

STATE PASS THRU- Tobacco Prevention

$3,000

1x grant

2012-2013

RCASA Youth Crew-Educating community stakeholders on tobacco advertising

Youth conducted 4 community presentations on tobacco advertising and participated in 2 statewide events.

SAMHSA

FEDERAL Sober Truth on Underage Drinking

$193,032

4yr grant (renewal annually)

2012-2016

RCASA Underage Drinking Prevention Project

To partially support staffing and supplies to implement changes in 7 areas to reduce underage drinking based on the University of Virginia APPLE Model.

 

Total of completed grants

$963,727

 

 

 

 


Grant Support for Reading Public Schools:

The RCASA Director edited the 5-year grant for School Department to procure $1.25 million to implement a School Climate project (APPROVED, 9/29/14, ENDS 9/29/19)


 Previous funding proposals written by the RCASA Director (NOT FUNDED):

  • 1 year grant to procure $20,000 from Lahey Clinic for RCASA and WAKE-UP to support a shared Eliot Recovery Coach to improve access to substance use disorder services for the Towns of Reading/Wakefield (not funded, 2019)
  • 1-year grant for RCASA to procure $5,000 from Winchester Hospital Community Benefit Fund to partially support the Reading Interface Referral Service to improve access to mental health services (not funded, 2016)
  • 2-year grant for police to procure $150,000 from the Attorney General’s Office to train police and school staff in Mental Health First Aid (not funded, 2014).
  • 3-year grant for police to procure $73,941 from the MA Dept. of Mental Health to expand police training and diversion programming (not funded, 2013).

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