Public health alumna leading drug-free coalition in Beech Grove

By the time Diana Hendricks enrolled in the Community Health Education undergraduate program at the University of Indianapolis in 2013, she had already raised a son, spent many years as an office administrator, and had been a wellness consultant and personal trainer for more than two decades.

Diana Hendricks“I enjoy my profession – it’s certainly gratifying, but something was missing,” Hendricks explained. “I wanted to make a difference in the health and wellbeing of my community, but I lacked the knowledge and credentials necessary to develop and implement quality public health programs.”

When Hendricks came across UIndy’s Community Health Education program, now called Public Health Promotion and Education, she knew she had found the right fit. After transferring credits from another institution, Hendricks was able to complete her degree in two years and later pass the exam to earn the national Community Health Education Specialist (CHES) certification. And just in time, because the Beech Grove Mayor’s Faith-Based Round Table asked Hendricks to develop a community substance misuse prevention program.

Hendricks took up the challenge and now serves as the executive director of the Beech Grove Comprehensive Drug-Free Coalition (BGCDFC). In that role, Hendricks has seen the coalition grow from eight to nearly 45 members and has been invited to sit on the Healthy Southside Initiative committee, INSTEP INDY initiative, and Drug-Free Marion County’s grant planning committee.

She credits her UIndy education, and Dr. Heidi Hancher-Rauch, direcor of the UIndy public health programs, with providing her the education and skills needed to successfully launch BGCDFC.

“I’ve led the coalition to conduct a needs assessment, make recommendations for programming, implement interventions and programs, and evaluate our efforts to fine-tune what we are doing to promote a substance-free community,” Hendricks said. “Along the way, I’ve valued being able to touch base with Dr. Rauch for her insights.”

Since BGCDFC began, it has been instrumental in the implementation of prevention curriculum for Beech Grove Community Schools fourth through ninth grades, dissemination of prevention resources at community festivals and health fairs, and offers community events on youth substance misuse and overdose awareness.

“The BGCDFC motto is ‘It takes a community, to keep a community healthy…together, we make a difference,’” Hendricks said. “In addition to our substance misuse prevention efforts, we are working to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction so those who need help will seek it without feeling shamed.”