In 2005, the Clay Counts Coalition began as a grassroots effort to address underage substance abuse. The Clay Center police chief, Bill Robinson and Mayor Sharon Brown lead a small, but passionate, group representing key sectors of the community in meetings to discuss community’s needs and interventions. The group chose “Clay Counts” as a name to emphasize the focus of the coalition, which was to ensure the health and wellness of ALL Clay County citizens. The group was organized as a branch of the Clay County Health Department and promoted through a series of Town Hall Meetings.
In 2007, through the support of the Kansas SPF-SIG grant, the strategic prevention framework was utilized to specifically address the problem of underage drinking. Activities to address underage drinking were in full swing with the hiring of two Project SUCCESS counselors who championed the initiatives. Then in 2015, a Suicide Prevention Activities Programs Grant provided support to address the needs of students regarding depression and suicide. As a result of this funding, the team developed policies and suicide protocols, as well as various student interventions.
In response to the influence of Clay Counts, in 2018 the school district added a School, Community, and Family Connections Counselor to develop a community-wide, comprehensive approach to addressing the health and wellness of local youth. This individual was key in helping Clay Counts secure a 2019 planning grant through the Kansas Prevention Collaborative. The grant allowed the coalition to further the mission of addressing underage alcohol use and suicide prevention through research-based interventions over the next three years.
Following this, Clay Counts earned a one-year, Opioid Data to Action (OD2A) grant to utilize a trauma-informed approach to addressing the opioid crisis in the community. This funding allowed them to provide a community resource fair, bring in a presenter to talk to students and community members about the stigma of depression, recruit and train a speaker’s bureau to visit with various groups in the community about trauma, and begin the implementation phase for the IRIS network. Then, in 2020 Clay Counts was awarded a second OD2A grant to strengthen the partnership with Riley County Corrections and support the new Drug Court community initiative. This grant also allowed the coalition to further advance the implementation of the IRIS network.
By utilizing these grants, Clay Counts has been able to offer ASIST Training in the community and launch one of the very first chapters of Youth Leaders in Kansas (YLINK). YLINK has allowed Clay Counts to expand their influence directly in the high school by offering Fifth Quarter monthly to all high school age kids in Clay County.
The Clay Counts Coalition exists to promote social, physical, and mental well-being for the residents of Clay County, emphasizing reduction of youth substance use and to foster a thriving environment in which to live, learn, and play.
The Clay Counts Coalition is of service to all citizens of Clay County Kansas.
When surveyed, coalition members stated that they felt proud of Clay Counts because of their ability to find creative solutions to the community’s specific and very real needs. To accomplish this, the Clay Counts Leadership team not only thoughtfully reviews local data, but also attempts to listen to each of the community sectors to determine direction.
Once this direction is determined, coalition members then effectively work together to implement activities and interventions that are genuinely tailored to their “small-town audience,” seeking to do this in a way that every patron feels valued and heard. A great example is the formation of YLINK, which has the increased the level of activity of the community in support of the coalition, and partnership with schools.
Throughout this process, Clay Counts strives to find and support hidden prevention gems in the community and feature them at meetings and student activities. Clay Counts leadership is most proud and grateful for the many essential prevention resources and services they have helped to create and support in North Central Kansas. Because of this, Clay Counts truly believe they are working together to make Clay County a great place to live, learn, work, and play!