In June 1995, an initial planning meeting involving all major departments in the County
of Henrico plus a number of private agencies and community citizens was held to conduct a
needs assessment and implement focus groups on the needs of the community. As a result, two
priorities were determined: to reduce child abuse and neglect, and to reduce violence through a
community focus on prevention. The Henrico Youth Development Committee formed to develop
action plans around youth violence for school-aged children. The Community Planning
Initiative, as it was known at the time, was divided into two efforts: one focusing on projects
such as the Outstanding Youth Awards, which encouraged youth to engage in community service
and acknowledged them publicly, and Henrico Youth Impact, a leadership development group
for high school youth to train them in volunteer service as an opportunity to develop leadership
In 1998, the Henrico Youth Development Committee became known as Healthy
Communities, Healthy Youth, and Healthy Henrico Youth Partnership (HCHY). The goals were
to educate all community members on risk and protective factors, and support new and existing
programs that promote protective factors for youth enabling healthy youth development.
In 2003, the Healthy Communities, Healthy Youth, Healthy Henrico Youth Partnership
(HCHY) became the Too Smart to Start Coalition. The focus of the Too Smart to Start Coalition
was directed toward the research-based risk and protective factors that prevent substance use
among youth. The first Town Hall meeting to raise community awareness in Henrico regarding
underage drinking was held in March 2006.
In 2008, the coalition’s name was altered to Henrico Too Smart 2 Start Coalition
(TS2S) and a Youth Ambassadors component was added to actively engage youth in leadership
development and prevention. The efforts of the coalition focused on the empowerment of every
citizen of Henrico County to make changes that promote health and wellness. The Henrico Too
Smart 2 Start Coalition continued to plan and host Town Hall meetings annually to introduce the
coalition and educate the community. Each successive year the Henrico Too Smart 2 Start
Coalition hosted a minimum of two events in collaboration with community partners for the
purpose of building capacity and educating the community on the hazards of underage drinking
and substance use. Community partners include Henrico County Prevention Services, MADD
(Mothers Against Drunk Driving), VA ABC (Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage
Control), Regional Drug-Free Alliance, Henrico County Public Schools, Henrico Police
Department, and the Parent Council of Commonwealth Parenting.
In 2009, the TS2S Coalition was the recipient of the Virginia Dept. of Alcohol &
Beverage Control (ABC) Community Coalitions Grant. Over the following year, the coalition
engaged several schools and PTAs in collaboratively launching the nationally recognized
initiative, Parents Who Host Lose the Most, and four Town Hall meetings were held on underage
drinking, and prescription drug abuse. MADD also participated as a partner in these
initiatives and subsequent community forums, hosting parent workshops on The Power of
Parents in addressing under-age drinking and related risky behaviors.
After incorporation in August 2011, the TS2S coalition formalized its strategies for
recruitment. A standing committee with the charge of focusing on membership development was
adopted. This committee’s role was, and is still, to strategically engage key stakeholders from the
community with affiliations in the 12 core sectors. The Chairman of the Henrico School Board
served as chair of the TS2S coalition for several years, thus expanding access to numerous other
key stakeholders and decision makers (e.g. County administrators, County Board of Supervisor
members, superintendent of schools), enabling the coalition to effectively broaden its capacity
building efforts and strategically increase its access to resources; one of the Henrico County
Board of Supervisors became a staunch advocate for the coalition. Key Police officials also
attended meetings and delegated police personnel to actively assist the coalition efforts. Henrico
County key stakeholders were regularly invited to coalition meetings and activities familiarizing
them with the work of the coalition and again building and sustaining capacity for its efforts.
Additionally, at each monthly meeting key agencies/organizations are invited to “spotlight” their
mission and efforts, thereby opening dialogue for additional collaboration, and as another way to
In 2013 the TS2S Coalition entered into a partnership with a veteran coalition,
Chesterfield SAFE, from an adjacent county. A DFC Mentoring Grant was obtained by
Chesterfield SAFE with the purpose of supporting and advising the TS2S Coalition in its
objective to seek a DFC grant. The two neighboring counties have a long history of
collaboration on economic, educational, cultural, law enforcement and legislative initiatives.
Leaders from the two groups have also worked together on regional (Regional Drug Free
Alliance), and statewide coalitions (Community Coalitions of Virginia) to coordinate advocacy,
and strengthen the prevention workforce across the state through third-party trainings. Under the
DFC Mentorship Grant, the TS2S Coalition strengthened its organizational structure, increased
its leadership and community readiness to address youth substance use in Henrico County,
obtained valuable training from CADCA and other resources, initiated a strategic planning
process, and begun a comprehensive community needs assessment.
The coalition receives substantial support from Henrico Mental Health and
Developmental Services. The Prevention Services unit played an instrumental role in the
inception of the coalition. Currently 2 Prevention Specialists manage and coordinate the
activities of the Youth Ambassadors, and provide training, consultation and coordination support
to assist the coalition efforts. In particular, the youth leadership component of TS2S (Youth
Ambassadors), was started to serve a vital role in mobilizing the community to address youth
substance use prevention. The program is designed for 9th through 12th grade Henrico County
youth, with the goal of promoting leadership competencies and knowledge of Prevention that
will position youth to positively promote change in their community. Youth are recruited from
Henrico County high schools, primarily through peer-to peer interaction. The Youth
Ambassadors have representation at the Too Smart 2 Start Coalition meetings. The youth assist
in the planning and implementation of activities incorporated in the coalition’s operational plan.
The coalition liaison is also an employee of Henrico Area Mental Health and
Developmental Services Prevention Unit, and is a Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Trainer
(SAPST), certified by SAMHSA – Center for Applied Prevention Technologies (CAPT).
The roles of all the officers, board members and members are outlined in the TS2S Coalition bylaws.
The by-laws were updated March 2014.
In 2016 the coalition received an ABC grant and partnered with Henrico County Public
schools to implement a youth survey, and partnered with Henrico Area Mental Health
Prevention Services as part of a comprehensive community needs assessment. And, in 2017 the
coalition applied for a Drug Free Community (DFC) community grant. The coalition will hear back in September 2017.