Coalition goal: To spur youth development, shun substances

Some community problems can seem too complex for any one person, agency or organization to tackle.  Coalitions of people from different sectors, with different expertise and experiences, are often a positive way for people to work together to develop and execute solutions to achieve a common goal.  Members of a coalition have a shared vision, align their activities to support one another, are in agreement on how they will measure success, and are in regular communication with one another.

The Pittsfield Prevention Partnership (PPP) is a Berkshire United Way led youth development coalition.  Its goal is to unite the community to create a healthy environment for positive youth development by reducing and preventing youth substance use.

The PPP engages in strategies that impact youth behavior and increase community awareness. 

These strategies or activities include:

  •  Sticker Shock Campaigns, which involve middle school students, and adult supervisors, placing stickers on multi-packs of alcohol in participating package stores. In addition, they place stickers on the bags in which alcohol will be placed when sold. The stickers remind  purchasers that providing alcohol to minors is illegal.   The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness of underage drinking laws and to prevent underage drinking.
  • Shoulder Taps Campaigns, which involve student volunteers, accompanied by a plain clothes police officer who observes from a distance, asking adults who are entering a liquor store if they would be willing to purchase alcohol for them, because they are too young to purchase it themselves. If the adult refuses to buy alcohol for the student, they receive a green card summarizing how they are contributing to a safe community.  If the adult is willing to make the purchase, they receive a red card that notes the consequences of furnishing alcohol to a person under 21.   The most recent Shoulder Taps campaign found 85% of adults said no.
  • Alcohol Purchase Surveys include a “secret shopper”, a legal-age young adult, attempting to purchase alcohol to see if the establishment properly asks for identification.  If the server proceeds with serving the young adult without requesting ID, they receive a red card that summarizes the consequences of furnishing alcohol to a person under 21; if they ID the young adult, they receive a green card summarizing how they are contributing to a safe community along with a $5 gift card to Dunkin Donuts. In a recent survey, 73% of establishments asked for ID. 

     Following each Alcohol Purchase Survey, the PPP follows-up with the Alcohol Licensing Board 
     to let them know which establishments failed to properly ID the secret shopper. 

  • Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) is a skills-based training for alcohol servers that is designed to prevent intoxication, underage drinking, and drunk driving by providing information on responsible service, sale, and consumption of alcohol.
  • Social Norms Marketing Campaigns, for example the billboard stating, “99% of Pittsfield parents want to know if you see their teen drinking,” which was based on a survey conducted by the PPP.

Since 2006, the PPP has played a critical role in helping Berkshire United Way achieve its goal of reducing youth alcohol and substance use; the 8th grade 30-day alcohol use has declined 59.7% countywide.

“This collaborative approach brings together different voices, suggestions and resources to shape the best strategy for combatting the significant issues Pittsfield faces regarding youth substance abuse. The data we receive from the bi-annual Prevention Needs Assessment Survey reflects the areas we have had success in.  It also identifies the areas that we need to improve or emphasize by adapting our strategies to be more relevant to our youth,” says Justine Dodds, PPP steering committee chair.

Each of us has the ability to become instruments of change.  Coalitions are one way for us to put our collective energies together to build a stronger community.  To learn more about Berkshire United Way’s coalitions, or volunteer for these activities, please visit