Vicky Ward pioneered prevention in the Northland, and the story starts 30 years ago. In July of 1993, Vicky was contracted by Tri-County Mental Health Services to develop “a prevention program.” Soon after, in September of 1994, Vicky was hired on as a staff member at Tri-County under Missouri’s Community 2000 initiative. The goal of this initiative was to establish 200 coalitions by the year 2000. Through this initiative, coalitions were trained to be advisory counsels for the Drug Free Schools contract and provide community-based prevention services. In these early days, five coalitions were trained in this advisory model, and two of the five coalitions still remain today – Liberty Alliance for Youth and Excelsior Springs SAFE.
Over the next decade, Vicky dedicated her time to building, and rebuilding, coalitions across the three-county area. By the end of 1994, many of the coalitions as we know them today were established. Almost immediately, leaders began meeting regularly in what was called a Team Leaders Forum. These were representatives from each coalition that came together to share resources, advocacy updates, and programming ideas. Is this sounding familiar? In the year 2000, the Northland Coalition was formed and shortly after they applied for the first Drug Free Communities Grant in Clay, Platte, and Ray Counties. The rest is history.
In February, we celebrated Vicky receiving the 2023 Exceptional Community Contributor award. There is no one more deserving of this award. If you’ve been around for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed Vicky’s imprint on every prevention program, volunteer, and coalition throughout Clay, Platte, Ray counties. In the three decades Vicky has been with Tri-County, her list of “exceptional community contributions” is too plentiful to share in full, so here we’ll just list a few.
Topping the list are the advocacy changes, or the policies and ordinances, that added a blanket of protection over our communities. Vicky was instrumental in passing many local ordinances, proven to reduce youth use of substances, such as Keg Registration, Social Hosting, Minor in Possession, Clean Indoor Air, Tobacco 21, and Prescription Drug Monitoring programs. Because of her leadership and passion for change, many of these local ordinances later became state laws. When you talk to coalition leaders from other states, many prevention coalitions are still working on getting some of these policies passed today that we’ve had in place for decades. This is a testament to Vicky’s incredible leadership and passion. Vicky’s unique ability to form relationships, aim for big change, risk and lead, has allowed her to receive well-deserved recognition from local, state, and national leaders. Whether it’s dangerous synthetic drugs or reports of heavy binge drinking on prom nights, if Vicky hears of a problem, she aims to solve it. Vicky never tires, always having the energy and passion to tackle the next threat to our communities’ health and safety.
Finally, our youth coalition, Youth With Vision, is Vicky’s pride and joy. She takes the most pride in these bold youth, many of whom have flourished over the years.
All the meanwhile, Vicky has written hundreds of grants, or grant reports, securing millions of dollars to support the work of the coalitions and program, supervised and mentored dozens of staff that still call her friend, and is the best responder to emails and phone calls!
Vicky has spent her entire prevention career trying to fit a square peg into a round hole; she’ll be the first to tell you that. However, it is this vigor, passion, and vision that got prevention in the Northland where it is today. It’s those same qualities that grew a prevention department from a staff of 1 to a team of 11.
We are celebrating Vicky’s retirement this April and couldn’t be more grateful for the contributions she’s made to the prevention program and our community here in the Kansas City metro area. Thank you, Vicky!
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