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The Collaborative’s Executive Director receives 2023 Prevention Champion Award

Maryann Morris, Executive Director of The CollaborativeMaryann Morris, Executive Director of The Collaborative received the 2023 Prevention Champion Award announced by Board of Directors Co-Chairs Kathy O’Reilly and Mark Weikert. The award, sponsored by PreventionWorks! VT, recognizes individuals or organizations who work or volunteer in the substance misuse prevention field.

Since 1999, The Collaborative has worked to empower youth, families and communities and build acceptance, resilience, and engagement. Morris has been the Executive Director since 2010. Prior to her current role, Morris was the The Collaborative’s Programs Coordinator starting in 2005.

“Maryann’s strong, capable leadership has made The Collaborative a valuable and respected partner in the execution of prevention work within our communities,” stated Kathy O’Reilly, The Collaborative’s Board of Directors Co-Chair.

Upon receiving the award, Morris noted, “I am so honored and appreciative of this award. I am privileged to be able to work to empower healthy youth, families, and communities. No one does this work alone and I am grateful that my community of preventionists includes a skilled and dedicated staff, committed and concerned partner organizations and most of all active, interested and engaged young people and families.”

The Prevention Champion Award honors recipients who help to keep Vermonters and their communities safe through their involvement in and promotion of substance misuse prevention. Prevention Works! VT is a statewide serving network providing technical assistance and support to prevention coalitions.

Beth Shrader, Director of Programs, Prevention Works!VT stated, "Having been a colleague of Maryann's for over a decade, I cannot think of any prevention leader who has contributed more than Maryann (Morris). I am so pleased that Prevention Works! VT and the prevention community can celebrate Maryann's dedication to the field."

Morris is well known for affecting positive change. She leads by example with thoughtful and intentional guidance and listens to understand. Morris meets individuals, families, and communities where they are at and helps bring them along as they develop a more relatable understanding and practice of substance misuse prevention. A champion of innovation, stigma reducing language, and embedding restorative practices in The Collaborative’s programming, Morris’ leadership in RTU (previously known as Refuse to Use), Extended Day Program, and Summer Camp has been instrumental in cultivating environments that are safe for young people to thrive, ask questions, or to have a caring place to land.

“Maryann epitomizes ‘Prevention Champion’ ”, says Dare Chammings, Director of ACT Bennington. “Her collaborative and inclusive approach engages even non-traditional partners in prevention work. Her efforts to improve healthy outcomes for youth and families positively impacts not only our communities here in SOVT, but at the State level as well. Maryann’s mentorship has been invaluable to me personally and I am a better preventionist because of her leadership.”

Morris’ ability to demonstrate ways to engage, build partnerships and provide technical assistance to support sustainability combined with her visioning and local, regional and state work elevates and helps transcend substance misuse prevention locally, regionally and on a state level.  

Her leadership is grounded on finding and building upon commonalities of understanding and being firmly based in patience and respect. A recent example is leading up to Vermont’s passage of retail cannabis, Maryann gently guided The Collaborative in working with advocates of retail cannabis to educate on protecting the under 21 population and supporting healthy community goals. A decade ago, using her visioning and long-range planning and to respond to the growing access to unused medications by non-prescribed users, Morris united Bennington County partners to implement Vermont’s  first Prescription Medication Disposal Network. Initially, many staff hours were dedicated weekly to the installation and running of the system, including data collection. Today, save for a few press releases and promotional messages originated by The Collaborative, prescription drug disposal and collection is managed and maintained systematically by law enforcement year-round.   

Vermont’s substance misuse prevention field and those working in the field are surely where they are today because of Maryann Morris.

Lauren Ingersoll, Ludlow Project Assistant

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