Special Episode 6: Coalition & Collaboration Leaders

Episode 13 December 16, 2021 00:27:05
Special Episode 6: Coalition & Collaboration Leaders
The Water Safety Podcast
Special Episode 6: Coalition & Collaboration Leaders

Show Notes

Join special guest hosts Will Koon & Tizzy Bennett for episode 6 of a special podcast series as they interview coalition and collaboration leaders in drowning prevention. In this interview they chat with Melissa Sutton of Arizona.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:01 Hey, Jesse, we've got another one. Here we go. Speaker 1 00:00:04 We shared do, and this is a fantastic conversation with Melissa Sutton with the drowning prevention coalition of Arizona. I'm really excited for this conversation because of Melissa's tremendous expertise, not only in the state of Arizona over a long period of time, but also nationally in her leadership role with the national drowning prevention Alliance, she brings an expertise from local to state to national that really helps us in thinking about effective coalition structure and activities. Speaker 0 00:00:43 Okay. So one thing that you're going to hear in this interview is that Arizona is the longest running statewide, drowning prevention coalition. And I know it's busy for you, Arizona was tremendously helpful when, uh, you and Tony and others were starting the Washington group. Speaker 1 00:01:02 That's absolutely right. And gosh, I kinda thought Washington had the longest running coalition, but I think Arizona SCOTUS beat on that one. And, um, yes, we did learn from Arizona with an event called labor pools day. If you're curious about that and you haven't listened to Tony Gomez interview yet, take a listen and you'll learn a little bit more on about how we use that in Washington state. So there's so much learning that we can do together and cross coalitions and cross borders. And that's part of why we're here today without further ado, we're going to turn it over to our interview with Melissa Alyssa. It's great to talk with you today. The Arizona drowning prevention coalition has been a leader in statewide collaboration for decades, and we're excited to learn from your experience. Would you please take a moment to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you and your work and how you came to this work and what Speaker 2 00:02:01 Safety? Yes, thank you. So the coalition's been around since 1989, but I've only been with them for about nine years now. My personal journey started on the beaches of lake Michigan. I grew up in traverse city, Michigan, and thought that life guarding was the coolest job on the planet. So I got my certification as a lifeguard young at 15 when I could, and then started guarding the beaches of lake Michigan at 16. And I've just always been, um, you know, obviously a water baby, uh, a mermaid, whatever you want to call it and was on the swimming and dive team dove in college. And I think that just naturally translated into wanting to serve in this space. So when I moved back to Arizona, I was actually born here. Um, but it was back in 2000. I quickly stumbled upon the coalition and, um, just really appreciated the work that they were doing, especially being in a landlocked state. Speaker 2 00:03:05 Most people don't realize that it's always been kind of a top four state for drowning numbers. And we're the only ones that do not have an ocean as one of our borders. So very unique situation there and, you know, certainly backyard pools. So coming from an aquatic environment with so many diving, I loved pools. I loved being in them. And it just made me sad to know that, um, the drowning rates were that what they were. So in the coalition I've been able to not only serve as a board member, but also I'm the current past president. My presidency just ended actually fairly recently. This is the first year I am not the president of an organization. Yay. Speaker 0 00:03:48 Thank Speaker 2 00:03:48 You. Speaker 0 00:03:51 Uh, Melissa, just real quick for people listening to you, you've also had loads of national experience. Can you quickly touch on some of your work with the NDPA and other groups Speaker 2 00:04:01 And DPA I've been with, um, a shorter period of time. I've been with them about seven of those years. Um, and again, just recent past precedent. So that's kinda nice to have been able to be at the helm for a little bit, but pass the gauntlet and a Baton onto, uh, Blake Collingsworth. Who's our current president. So yes, the absolute wonderful part of being, um, with that group was really getting a great scope of what's happening in the U S and certainly on a global scale to help us here in Arizona, but then use our longevity here in Arizona and some of the successes and failures that we've had to share at the national and global. Speaker 0 00:04:46 Amazing, thank you so much. Um, I want to start and zoom in a little bit on the Arizona coalition. So you mentioned started 1989. Can you, um, take us back to what information you can provide about how the coalition was started? Um, we, you know, was there like some initial catalyzing event and, you know, if, if you do know, like what did those early days look like? Speaker 2 00:05:08 So in 1989, representatives from our Arizona department of health services, the consumer products and safety commission, fire departments and hospital personnel met and, and is now what is formed, um, the drowning prevention coalition of Arizona originally, it was the drowning prevention coalition of central Arizona, which really focused on the Phoenix area, but we have drownings throughout the state, of course. So we broadened the scope of it. Um, it now comprised is comprised of parents health and safety professionals, business leaders, and just concerned citizens. So we still have the core who started us, but it's truly has expanded to a community effort. The first undertaking was a barrier law and we quickly learned that it is audacious. It is difficult and you always get what you want. You set out saying, oh, we need these barrier laws and we need them strong. And what you end up with is something not even close to what you were looking for. Now, the barrier law data get enacted in 1990 and we saw a significant drop in our drownings because of it. So that was a win, but we realized quickly that education was more, what was our scope of work, and we could reach more people, we could have greater impact, and we could make a bigger difference by going that route Speaker 0 00:06:31 Super helpful. I want to ask a quick follow-up you mentioned some of the groups kind of involved in the coalition. Are there any players in the Arizona Gianni prevention coalition that, uh, might not be like traditionally thought of as water safety? Um, and yeah. Who are they? Yeah, Speaker 2 00:06:50 Yeah. So we have two, um, individuals that have served on our advisory board or, uh, our board of directors. One was with an organization that you may know called La-Z-Boy furniture in Arizona. Yeah. They not only helped support us financially, but would provide volunteers. I mean, this was a company that had 500 people and would come out for water safety days and just supported us in so many ways that can August we have drowning impact awareness month is our hottest month of the year. We just change up our messaging. We go from the Butte blue skews and Hughes to purple, just to kind of make a statement like, Hey, yes, we've been talking about this for months, but we need you to take notice because it's still happening and it's really bad this month. So they were really a great help with that. But then we also have, uh, swift office solutions. Speaker 2 00:07:42 The owner of that company is a gentleman by the name of ed swift, who back in the late eighties, early nineties, who was actually a form of founding member, just kind of said, why am I hearing about all the drownings happening in Arizona? Why what's, what are, what are our numbers not understanding that, you know, CDC had the whiskers program or the state hospital, or I'm sorry, the state health department had, um, you know, their child fatality review numbers just kind of started pulling media reports and reaching out to our fire department. So this is a way we track data here that, um, a lot of people don't necessarily do because it is, it is different and it's more difficult, but we've got a pretty good system in place. So ed was the one who started that and he keeps it now under children's safety zone. And we get asked all the time for our data, whether it's media requests or, you know, um, total aquatic programming, um, you know, obviously we supply it to NDP for their resource center and, and so many other requests come for this particular set of data. Speaker 1 00:08:47 Those are such great examples of thinking outside of the box and that, uh, you may have a need on a coalition like volunteers, or like someone who can work with data that pulls you outside of who you might traditionally look to and you bring in more strengths and assets love that. Yes. So on that note, can you talk about how the coalition is organized? Speaker 2 00:09:13 So right now we have 13 board members and 13 advisory council members. Our board members are voting members with regard to any requests we get for grants. We are a grant funding agency. Um, two projects we're going to take on, or, um, say policy or, um, gosh, you know, bylaw, you know, all the legal side of things. Our advisory council helps us vote on, uh, well, they offer advice when we have something come up for vote, whether it's a grant or, um, a bylaw change or something like that, they can offer their, um, perspective and, and, um, which is really helpful. It's really kind of actually helped with some of the voting we've done, but they also can vote on our, um, board members. Um, that's a members at large. Anybody helps us vote for the board members and which of course they are members at large and they also help us vote on our awards. Speaker 2 00:10:11 One time each year, we have an awards breakfast, which is really great. And I kind of am gonna cyber on this because I think it's really helpful for us. We do so much at the grassroots level, whether it's events, community events, or in schools with our fire, um, to do that while they're doing fire safety, we do water safety. Um, but we also have the awards, breath Fest, which that we invite like the governor's office and CEOs of businesses or the fire chiefs, um, the Sheriff's department and the actual sheriff himself or themselves. And they are the, obviously the leader. So it's more of that trickle down effect. So we're, we're doing the community events and then we have the awards breakfast. So we feel like we're getting everybody in between. Um, we're educating the leaders so that they can educate their staff and their, um, you know, forces that are going out into the community. And what's interesting too, is the awards. Breakfast is one of two signature events of ours. We do over a hundred events a year and none of them, but those two are ours. We partner with our community, whether it's an apartment complex through the Arizona multi-housing association or it's the fire departments having some sort of, um, safety day. So we go out and attend all of these events and this is how we reach everyone. Speaker 0 00:11:34 So you touched a little bit on, um, you've got board members, you've got advisory council leads. Um, how, how are other folks more at the grassroots level involved? Um, a union, somebody who's, uh, uh, working for a city health department or an aquatic facility and wants to some drowning prevention work, how are they incorporated into the coalition? Speaker 2 00:11:57 So anybody can be a member. Um, we offer memberships and we keep them at very minimum just so that people can participate. I think like $35 gets you a basic membership up to a hundred dollars for a corporate. If you have like a brick and mortar building, families who have lost, um, are always free. We always include them. So we put out information where they can either attend one of our four general meetings a year where we kind of just do a big information dump, whether it's our data and stats or what programs are effective and making an impact or what's coming up. Um, and you know, what's happening in the U S whether it's legislation that's being written in California, Texas, New Jersey, Florida, just kind of keeping everyone abreast so they can attend the meetings right now, of course, everything's virtual. Um, and we've always hybrid them anyway. Speaker 2 00:12:51 That's just been something we've always done. So it wasn't that big of a change for us to just say, by the way, we're not meeting in person, we're just online now. Um, and then we invite anyone to come out to the events with us, either to attend the event and just learn about other safety features that are happening, or just enjoy the freebies that are being handed out with whoever's putting that on, um, or actually be in the booth with us and help us educate the community. And then when we do have events that require volunteers, um, to just help, you know, move children along or, you know, um, get children off buses, we put those opportunities out to say here's some opportunities for us to help, but we also cross into other injury prevention areas. We recently just got asked to put information out for a fire and burn walks. Somebody needed to test, um, fire, um, alarms and homes. And so we put that out too. So we're, we're constantly, um, trying to be supportive in all injury prevention areas. And so there's many ways that we engage the community. Um, there's just a few. Speaker 1 00:14:00 So what are the main outputs or activities your coalition's involved with? You've touched on a few, but if you can summarize those for us. Speaker 2 00:14:10 Yeah. So we, again, education, we educate, educate, educate. That's like our biggest thing. However, wherever, if somebody puts in a request, we have, you know, of course a contact us link on our website saying, Hey, can you come talk to our parent group? Or we have a senior center who needs some information about you drowning prevention, whatever it is we go and educate. Um, we are big connectors. Um, so that's the thing that I feel like we do really, really well is when somebody is looking for a resource, we typically have the right person to call so that it eliminates cold calling. It eliminates that back and forth, and just the time it takes to reach the right person. So we're a great community connector. And I think what we do really well too, is we support and collaborate. Again. I mentioned how of those hundred events that happen each year. Only two of them are ours, but we provide materials. We provide volunteers, we provide funding. Um, however that looks or a speaker, um, we are constantly just there to support however we can. Um, but I think so those, those are the three main, um, kind of ways we are involved with the community. Um, I kind of want, I want to go into, um, you know, some successes, but I don't wanna jump ahead. I don't know if that's a question that Speaker 0 00:15:39 Let's go there. Yeah. Let's go. Let's go there. Why not? Yeah. So, yeah, so, I mean, so you said education connectors and supported collaborate, um, are kind of the, the ways that, you know, you guys are acting in the state. How have you done that? Well, what are the big wins? Um, brag a little bit. Be proud of the crowd. Yeah. Go ahead and tell us, tell us some of the things that you're proud of, um, of Arizona for accomplishing. Speaker 2 00:16:06 Yes. So first we have to start with framing that one life lost is too many. Before we go into the next area of success. Um, it breaks my heart every time I hear of any drowning adult pediatric, it doesn't matter. Um, but our drowning rate has continued to drop year after year after year now, 20 20 20 is going to be an anomaly, I think for everyone, for a multitude of reasons that we've all identified, I think, but in 1988, when we first started talking about forming, we had a drowning rate, pediatric drowning rate, just start there, pediatric January of 64.8 per 100,000 kids. That's a big number. In 2015, that rate we had brought down to 8.1 program, a hundred thousand kids in 2017, we dropped that to 4.4 by 2019, we were sitting at 3.3 per 100,000 kids. Um, again, 2020 is going to be interesting once we get those final stats. Speaker 2 00:17:18 Um, so we're just going to have to ask strict that year. So I feel like our drowning rate is something we've worked hard at to drop, um, because we needed to, and that's something we definitely take pride in. So very exciting for there. And then, um, who we've involved as partners kind of, we touched on that earlier. How there just outside of the box thinking happening here, uh, we joke that we're the wild wild west and we can get away with a lot because of that. Um, but it is, it's truly being willing to work with anyone and listening, being willing to, to have those conversations. Um, and then our curriculum, we have a curriculum in the state and it's tied to the Stewie, the duck book. Um, but, and it's introduced in the ELA programs and ours meets the state core curriculum. We know a lot of curriculums out there that are kind of just broad strokes, and we always advise that it has to meet your core state core standards. If it doesn't your districts, your state are just going to toss it out. Speaker 0 00:18:25 Uh, I'd love to move on to some challenges because, uh, every coalition is going to face challenges. And I think for, uh, you know, the group in California, who's starting out and other groups who will be looking at doing this when the water safety, the national water safety plan is released next year. Um, learning from other groups who have been through some challenges, I think can help prepare us for what to expect and maybe help navigate some difficult waters when they come. So can you share with us some of the challenges that the Arizona drowning prevention coalition has faced? Speaker 2 00:19:02 Yes. So I think our biggest challenge over the course of the 32 years we've been around, um, is egos. Um, and then certainly kind of the territorial aspect that comes along with it. We've had plenty of people come into the room who felt like they've known everything they can about this space and not being willing to listen or hear, or maybe it was a program that was started by an organization and kind of has, um, morphed over time. And they wanted to come back to their roots and it must be done this way. And, you know, we've, we've definitely fallen if found ourselves in those, those challenges. Um, I think by using grace and courtesy in that time, time and space, it has gotten us to where we are today that we still exist and then funding we're scrappers out here. We do so much with so little. It is amazing if we had funding, um, there would be, again, we have a data system, a statewide data system that I'm sure would be up and running and, and wonderful, and we've considered it and we've looked at grants for things like that. Um, but yeah, certainly the funding aspect, there's so much that could be done if, you know, we have more money and I think that's something that everyone faces. So we're no different, I believe in, in that respect. Speaker 1 00:20:30 So as you think back over these 30 years, that the coalition's been in existence, what advice would you have for a newly forming coalition? Speaker 2 00:20:41 I would start with keep it simple it's so it can be overwhelming and it can seem that way. So you certainly want to start off with the list of people that you feel like should be involved in your state health people, your, um, fire departments, your hospital systems, you know, there's a list, there's a good list out there of who should be included and split start small, not, you know, if you have a list of 50 people, not all 50 people have to show up now it's to have that first meeting, see who shows up and start there. That's all you have to do. You know, eventually you can get into, you know, the bylaws and all the legalities and do form a 5 0 1 C3 and you know, all of that. But, um, just have that first meeting and see who shows up in the room and what, what skillsets they can bring to the table or where their talents lie. Um, and then, you know, being open to creativity, I think that's, what's really helped us in the past, whether it's just, you know, allowing somebody like a La-Z-Boy or, uh, a swift office solutions to be a part of the conversation, or if it's being willing to say, you know what, it's not evidence-based, it, it there's something to it. Let's look into it a little bit more and see if there's more to it that we can figure out. Um, and then, you know, being inclusive, which, you know, lends to that, Speaker 0 00:22:10 I love your comments on, you know, like you just have to start like, get people in the room and just start. And we've heard that, you know, from, from several other folks is, um, you know, you, you got to start somewhere and it's okay if you start small. So yeah, you have to start be open to, you know, being creative and finding an, a flexible, interesting out of the box solutions. Um, I want to ask you, you know, I think that the Arizona drowning prevention coalition is the longest running coalition around, is that, Speaker 2 00:22:43 That's what we say it has yet to be contested. Okay, Speaker 0 00:22:46 Good. Yeah. So on that note, on that note, um, how do you keep this going over the long run? Because I feel like there's so many groups that start, and there's this honeymoon period of a year, two years, three years where everybody it's novel, it's new, everybody's excited. Um, you know, I would imagine that you've probably been, um, you know, on some peaks and valleys over the years, what recommendations would you have for keeping the long view and keeping this going, um, you know, over time. Speaker 2 00:23:21 So it's that double-edged sword of, it's constantly top of mind here, we were always having drownings happening. So, and then the media covers it because if it bleeds, it leads, right. It's not about having, um, the proactive, they don't, it's rare that we get approached with, Hey, let's do a water safety story. They're starting to get better about that. Um, and it's because we're feeding it to them. We're like, let's, let's hit this before it actually ends up in somebody losing their life or a non-fatal. Um, so that, that unfortunately again, and fortunately helps us, so that con people are constantly compelled. They feel like there's a need to do something and we should be doing something. Um, and then just trying to keep it interesting. Again, we have four meetings a year for the general public. Anybody can attend, anybody can, um, hop on and join us and we try and keep the speakers. Speaker 2 00:24:20 Um, again, because we've been hybriding it for this whole time. We've, we've had, um, gosh, Justin, some Sprott speak to us. Um, who's now in Idaho and we've had CPSC out of Washington, DC, you know, beyond the call for us. So we try and keep it relevant and interesting. And when the national action plan was launched, that was exciting for people. They felt like they could have a voice in it. And I think it's how you, um, storytell it. And I think we do a good job here. We have like families United who helped us share that face behind the incident and the story behind it. And I think that's compelling to people as well and keeps them interested, especially, you know, again, I'm going to go off topic here real quick, but, um, Drennan streams, bill Amelia, his story and Drennan story. I have a 14 year old who is a really good swimmer and the fact that his 14 year old champion swimmer drown up until that day, I was like, I gotta focus on my little one. I got it. My older one knows how to swim. He's good, no big deal. And it made me who is in this space day in and day out, realize that no, I'm just as much responsible for both of them while we're at the, in the water as I am, you know, for the better swimmer or the non, my younger one looks like he's actively drowning when he's swimming. So that's just not good. Anyway, Speaker 1 00:25:51 Melissa, this has been an amazing conversation and we could easily spend the whole afternoon with you. And we're so grateful for you sharing your time and your expertise with us for wondering, is there anything else that you'd like to add as we wrap up our conversation today? Speaker 2 00:26:12 I am just so grateful for the work you are doing in this space and this project you're putting together for so many who are in need of it. I know this initially started off as a project for California, but I really see this being for all of the us and, you know, the globe. It is amazing. So I am so grateful to not only know you, but have been invited to be with you today and share again. Yes, I could go on and on and on. So we're just going to wrap it and I'm just going to tell you, thank you so much for this opportunity. And if I think of anything that is so amazing and wonderful that we forgot to include in this conversation, I would like you to have Speaker 0 00:26:53 That's right. Yeah. Right. Thank you, Melissa. So much. We're so grateful for you. Speaker 2 00:26:57 Oh, thank you. Well, thank you tizzy. You guys are doing amazing things, so thank you. Thanks Melissa.

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