COVID-19 Generates Innovative Prevention Strategies


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many organizations to re-evaluate their business model, and Riverhead CAP is no exception. As a result, CAP staff and coalition partners successfully implemented innovative approaches to prevent and reduce youth substance use.

The pandemic created unique challenges for each sector in our community. Riverhead Community Awareness Program (CAP) and Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth (RCC) continue to engage our partners to promote a safe, healthy and drug-free community. Since the NYS State of Emergency began in March, we successfully implemented 30 community changes and served over 2,400 individuals. We also generated 419 volunteer hours and over 129,000 media impressions. 

Maintaining Momentum Among youth

During the COVID-19 pandemic Riverhead Youth Coalition (RYC) continues to hold virtual general meetings several times a month. Members also meet in committees to work on remote projects. In a campaign entitled, “My Best Life,” they  created photos and videos demonstrating why they choose to live substance-free. They also participated in May’s Sector Spotlight,  creating video messages for the Riverhead Police Department.

RYC members also wrote and recorded two remote Public Service Announcements (PSAs). The PSAs focused on preventing prescription drug abuse and underage drinking. In addition, they conducted a virtual orientation for the fourth grade Peacemakers and Roanoke’s Student Council. The orientation provided fourth graders with information on their transition to Pulaski Street Elementary School.

RYC Seniors were highlighted as June Members of the Month. These seniors are also the founding members of the youth coalition. Their final project was completing interviews for the article. Coalition Youth Sector Representative and July Member of the Month Max Solarz also received the CAP Jack Hanson Leadership Scholarship.

Maintaining collaborations

Adult coalition members participate in monthly virtual meetings since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Members participate in surveys to ensure meetings and activities are effective. In lieu of our annual Meet and Greet, coalition members began a project that focuses on the “6 R’s to Participation.” This project will identify additional ways to recruit and retain members. In addition, School Sector Representative Christine Tona was recognized as April’s Member of the Month.

Felicia Scocozza and Kelly Miloski partnered with Epiphany Community Services to provide two webinars for coalition members and other coalitions across the country. NY National Guard Counterdrug Task Force (CDTF) representatives delivered a Public Health webinar for coalition members. They also conducted community scans to determine the impact of the pandemic on local vaping and marijuana advertising.

Expanding Peer Leader Involvement

CAP Peer Leaders have also become more involved in prevention strategies since the COVID-19 school closure. Virtual meetings held weekly with Eighth Grade and High School Peer Leaders provide support and opportunities to plan projects. One of these projects provided encouraging messages to fifth and sixth grade students at Pulaski Street Elementary School. These students participate in a monthly Life Skills Training program delivered by Peer Leaders and adult volunteers.

For the first time Peer Leaders participated in the program’s recruitment strategy. High School Peer Leaders developed quotes that demonstrate the benefits of joining program. The quotes were included in infographics and a White Board video. Peer Leaders also participated in National Prevention Week. They created Virtual High Fives showcased on Riverhead CAP’s Facebook page.

Sustaining School Services

The COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close, and interrupted CAP’s school-based programs. As a result, CAP developed an innovative plan to continue the Life Skills Training program through Google classrooms. CAP staff created learning packets that focus on preventing youth alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drug abuse. They also focus on communication and coping with stress. These packets were made available to over 850 students who participate in the program.

CAP continued its annual essay contest for Pulaski students. We received 125 essays this year. High School Peer Leaders created a video announcing the fifth and sixth grade winners of the contest. We concluded this year’s program by participating in the Sixth Grade Moving Up Parade, giving drug-free t-shirts to the students. CAP Social Workers continue to provide counseling services during the pandemic to Riverhead students.

Building Business Partnerships 

The coalition partnered with local businesses to launch its Class of 2020 Healthy Choices Sticker Campaign. The stickers encourage graduates to celebrate safely and avoid the pitfalls of underage drinking and drug use. The coalition distributed approximately 10,000 stickers to 15 businesses.

Strengthening Social Media Platforms

We continue to connect with the community through social media. White Board Wednesdays, an educational video series, was launched during the pandemic. Some topics include: Coping with Stress During COVID-19 for Teens, Calming Finger Activity for Parents and Children, and Tips for Working from Home. We use our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Vimeo pages to provide information about substance use, coping with stress, and resources.

Interested in Learning More About Coalition Membership?

As we continue to navigate through COVID-19, Riverhead CAP and RCC will provide effective, safe, and innovative approaches to prevent and reduce youth substance use. Coalition members play a key role in providing many of these effective strategies. To learn more about joining the coalition, contact Kelly Miloski at (631) 727-3722 ext. 106 or