The CED Mental Health Substance Prevention team recently held an online art contest for all fifth through eighth graders in DeKalb County.

Velvie Smith of Crossville Middle School was chosen as the art contest winner.

CED Mental Health Substance Prevention Educator for DeKalb County Daphne Stewart said they have had to change their summer plans this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine.

“We have missed being in the classroom and having all the summer activities we had planned, so we have shifted gears and are learning to meet our students’ needs virtually,” she said.

One of the ways the prevention educators for DeKalb County were able to do just that was to hold an online art contest with the theme of “Tobacco Free.”

Students were invited to participate by submitting their original artwork or billboard design via email to the prevention team staff.

“We have done other art contests in the past, but this was the first virtual contest we have done. Multiple county schools were represented,” said Stewart.

She said Smith’s artwork would be on display at a local billboard hopefully as early as next week.

Covering three counties for CED Mental Health, the prevention educator team is comprised of Daphne Stewart and Iesha Mcelrath, who covers DeKalb County, Laura Durbin, who covers Etowah County, Prevention Specialist Nancy Steed who has served Cherokee County for over twenty years and Hannah Chandler program coordinator.

These five women typically spend a large portion of their week in classrooms throughout DeKalb County schools educating students on the harms of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

According to cedmemtalhealth.org, the nonprofit organization provides public and private funded mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention services to DeKalb, Cherokee and Etowah counties.

At the start of the coronavirus shutdown, Stewart said their team helped pack and distribute lunches through the DeKalb County Board of Education.

“It was nice to see some of the familiar faces go through the lines,” she said.

Following the tightening of restrictions by Gov. Kay Ivey, the team began searching for alternate measures to get their message out.

“We reached out to teachers and had them share information or videos via their virtual learning platforms. Our team also set up a Prevention Team Facebook page so our older students and parents could connect with us on social media,” said Stewart.

Through their Facebook page, the team began posting facts and graphics that included videos from national prevention organizations and original content created by the team.

“We are working on going completely virtual if required in the coming year. We hope to offer online prevention classes and training for educators, parents and the community,” Stewart said.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has impacted peoples and organizations from all walks of life, the prevention team is slowly starting to attend community functions.

“We will be at Freedom Fest in Rainsville this weekend, handing out pens, candy and prevention information,” said Stewart.

She said they are hoping to hear more about their access to schools for the upcoming year following Friday’s State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris conference formally introducing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools.”

“We hope to continue to provide on-site services, but if that isn’t an option, we plan to transition into a new virtual normal by providing online classes and training for students, educators, parents and the community,” said Stewart.

Stewart said the Prevention Team is available to speak, do prevention presentations or set up information tables at community events and church events, including other venues.

For regular updates, CED Mental Health Prevention Team daily updates or to contact them visit them on Facebook at CED Mental Health Substance Prevention Team.

For information about the CED Mental Health Center, visit cedmentalhealth.org.

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