Ohio NG Counterdrug Civil Ops develops coalition mentoring program

Army National Guard Capt. Matthew Toomey, program manager Ohio National Guard Counterdrug

Civil Operations Program, presents information about the Ohio National Guard Counterdrug Civil

Operations Program to Ohio coalition members during the Ohio Prevention Education Conference

in June of 2014. (Courtesy Photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio--Five years ago, Capt. Matthew Toomey, Program Manager of the Ohio National Guard Counterdrug Program's Civil Operations, found himself like an ill-equipped homeowner facing autumn's steady stream of falling leaves: no matter how hard he toiled, the piles grew higher and thicker.

 "I kept watching the work pile up while the people to do it decreased," Capt. Toomey said. "It was a bit disconcerting, but I refused to get discouraged."

With that mindset, Capt. Toomey set about to overcome the obstacles he faced as the Civil Operations Program Manager. It would take innovation, a clear vision, and teamwork to meet the demands of his job. 

 His determination resulted in the concept of the Ohio Coalitions of Excellence (OCOE) designation, a grant to study the concept, and findings that the concept works.

 Toomey took the reins of the Ohio National Guard Counterdrug Program's Civil Operations Program with a mandate to conduct the National Guard Counterdrug Kaizen assessment tool, and to provide coaching and mentoring based on the results of the assessment. 

The Kaizen assessment is the signature tool National Guard Civil Operations specialists use to assist coalitions in becoming more efficient and effective in their work. The Kaizen tool is designed to measure a coalition's ability to implement the essential processes used in the Strategic Preventions Framework (SPF) and other common public health models. In analyzing the results of the Kaizen event, Civil Operations specialists discover a coalition's needs and then use that information to guide their coaching and mentoring.

 In a perfect world, that is how it's supposed to work, but it wasn't working that way in Ohio.

Although several coalitions had allowed Ohio NG Counterdrug Civil Operations specialists to use them as "Beta Testers" for the Kaizen event, the follow on coaching support was not being provided.

 With the increasing workload and the decreasing work force, it wasn't feasible to conduct both

the Kaizen event and to provide fairly intensive follow on support to what would amount to 50 - 100 coalitions located throughout the state, Toomey said.

"The Kaizen was not going to succeed in Ohio as a standalone event," Toomey said.

Like the home owner who grabs the leaf blower and leaf vacuum to attack the growing pile of leaves, Toomey grabbed on to his military experience and processes to solve the growing backlog of coalitions in need of mentoring and coaching. He began to work smarter not harder.

"Borrowing from Army tradition and relying on the experiences of learned leadership and an understanding that Army processes aren't that different from those in prevention, the idea of a mentor/mentee relationship was simply common sense," Toomey said.

With that, the concept of the Ohio Coalitions of Excellence (OCOE) designator was born.

Toomey had created a force multiplier

Toomey's vision called for prevention coalitions to form a mentor/mentee relationship by earning the OCOE designator. As one of the requirements to earn the OCOE designation, Ohio coalitions would have to conduct a National Guard Kaizen event. Once designated an OCOE, the OCOE could become a mentor to other coalitions. The Ohio NG Counterdrug Civil Operations specialist would perform the Kaizen, and the coalitions that earned the OCOE designator would provide the extensive coaching and mentoring. This would relieve the Civil Operations specialists from the extensive coaching and mentoring required by the Kaizen event. Through this mentor/mentee relationship, coalitions could improve their overall strategic and operational planning for substance abuse prevention.

The next obstacle was to prove the viability of the OCOE and the mentor/mentee relationship.

"I didn't do this alone," Toomey said. "This couldn't have been accomplished without the help and guidance from the Strategic Prevention Framework -State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG), the SPFSIG Advisory, the Evidence Based Practice Group, the Strategic Prevention Enhancement Consortium, and the partnership with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS)."

"We developed, reviewed and massaged the concept for nearly two years," Toomey said.

When the OCOE was ready, it was rolled out in Fiscal Year 2014 following the Ohio Prevention Education Conference.

Soon thereafter, OhioMHAS recognized Toomey's Ohio Coalitions of Excellence concept as worthy of further study. The OhioMHAS funded the Ohio Coalition of Excellence Mentoring Initiative with a grant to support coalitions in the use of local data and evidence based prevention strategies to create meaningful change within Ohio's communities.

"This grant was devised to loosely support the OCOE designation," Toomey said. ""It tested the theory that mentoring relationships between prevention coalitions would work and is a good thing."

Funds were allocated from the Ohio House Bill 483 (Mid Biennium Review), toward strengthening prevention practices, developing capacity, and working toward the new OCOE designation. The idea is to provide a stage for coalitions to conduct professionalization; where they can be thoughtful/mindful of their processes, strategies and goals. This enables coalitions to form the basis for their OCOE applications.

"It [OCOE] offered coalitions a goal—something worthy of attaining," Toomey said.

The payoff came once the funding for the grant ended in June and the evaluations were tabulated and the results released.

"The bottom line is the evaluation found mentoring works," Toomey said. "It's not perfect. The process needs to be refined, but mentoring works."

Using innovation, a clear vision, and teamwork Toomey developed the OCOE concept. In so doing, he had provided Ohio decision makers with a community assessment tool and a means to employ that assessment more efficiently and effectively.

"I took our planning process and applied it to the task at hand and eventually, I came up with the Coalition of Excellence concept," Toomey said.

Like the ill equipped homeowner who found the leaf blower as a means to manage autumn's steady stream of falling leaves, Toomey developed the OCOE designator to manage the ever growing pile of work he faced as the Program Manager of the Ohio National Guard Counterdrug Program's Civil Operations.