Talbot Goes Purple – Talbot County
“Talbot Goes Purple,” held during National Recovery Month and the new start of the school year (September), was modeled after “The Herren Project, Project Purple,” a prevention and substance abuse awareness campaign created by former Boston Celtic Chris Herren. In 2016 and early 2017 during about 100 drug prevention talks given by Sheriff Gamble, it was learned that nearly 90 percent of parents, grandparents, students, and care givers do not understand the link between prescription opiates and heroin addiction.
Partnering with the Talbot County Public Schools and Tidewater Rotary, the 10-month plan was launch in September 2017. Knowing that traditional drug awareness events are not well attended, the Talbot Sheriff’s Office wanted to instead take the message to the community by visiting places where kids and parents already go and deliver educational messages related to prevention, early intervention, and recovery. Schools, high school sporting events, youth sporting events, civic organizations, coaches, teachers, students, parents, business owners, home owner associations, and churches were the main focus.
Talbot Goes Purple has created a multitude of public-private partnerships and has inspired the entire county to take on the cause of drug prevention education. Citizens were asked to display purple lights to raise awareness and over 20 educational messages at their businesses, homes, churches, schools, and government buildings. All of the municipal towns in the county embraced the project by displaying purple lights and educational banners. The business community, churches, and homeowners displayed purple lights and educational lawn signs. Tee shirts, bumper stickers, and educational brochures were distributed by the thousands in support of Talbot Goes Purple.
Every Talbot County Public School teacher and employee was educated on the epidemic and the path to addiction. Each was given a Talbot Goes Purple shirt which they now use on “Purple Fridays” to support the campaign. Assemblies with Chris Herren educated every eighth to twelfth grader (public and private) in the county. Students then produced their own PSA’s after hearing Chris Herren speak. More than 1000 parents attended a public forum featuring Herren. In-school “Purple Clubs” were established by high school students to help further the educational and prevention messages through the sports teams and other school clubs.
Though September was the kick-off month for Talbot Goes Purple, the community has a two-year sustainment plan to continue the prevention and educational messaging. It is estimated that approximately 25 percent of county residents attended an educational/prevention talk in the county during September.
The project was featured in over 50 front-page newspaper articles printed in the local paper that also covered prevention, early intervention, and stories of recovery. Free PSA’s were run almost daily on the local radio about the project as well as the educational messaging. Talbot County has been capitalizing on opportunities to speak with parents and youth. Nearly 200 presentations have been given at locations that parents and kids frequent. Talbot County Sheriff’s Office has already been asked by other counties to collaborate in the future on how they can “Go Purple.” Plans are for Talbot County “Go Purple” again next September.