Saving lives is the goal of PFH's Prevention Services program
Nick Cook, Program Director of Prevention Services
If you ask Nick Cook what he does for a living, he will tell you, "I save lives."
As program director of Preferred Family Healthcare's Prevention Services, which covers 27 counties in northern Missouri, Cook said he truly believes he and his staff are saving lives every day as they work to help educate youth about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, and the signs of suicide and mental health issues.
"There is nothing better than those days you receive a call from someone saying they were able to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression or a drug use problem in a loved one because of information we provided in a presentation," Cook said. "Those days reinforce that fact that I love my job!"
With funding provided by the Missouri Division of Behavioral Health, the goal of Prevention Services is to work with communities to provide education and support to help fight substance use disorders, particularly among children and teens.
Cook said the program focuses on youth because they believe that if they can get children and teens to understand the dangers associated with alcohol and drug use, they can be empowered with information they can carry in to their adulthood.
The development of community coalitions is one of the primary ways Prevention Services helps communities. These coalitions are a network of volunteers from the community whose focus is on prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug use. Cook's staff helps these groups by providing organization assistance, education, and development of prevention strategies.
Cook said the goal is to train these community coalitions so they can foster their own change in their communities, and learn about financial resources available to support their efforts.
Working with schools to provide education to staff and students is another way Prevention Services spread their messages. Cook said prevention specialists provide educational programs for the students, as well as provide school teachers and administrators with information about identifying students who may be prone to drug use, suicide or mental health issues.
Cook said the Prevention Services team is also working to utilize Social Media in their efforts to create awareness of not only their services, but also messages about substance use disorders.
"We're getting a lot more followers on our platforms and are also seeing other organizations sharing our posts, which helps boost our efforts," he explained.
There are currently four members of PFH's Prevention Services team -- Nick and prevention specialists Cory Eslinger, Edward Mears and their newest member Jaidan Pattermann.
"Without my prevention specialists, this department would not exist," Nick said. "They are the liaisons between the communities we service and the programs we offer. They are the engine that drives the department."