Alumna helps communities fight substance abuse

November 22, 2010

Bradley alumna Diane Eager began her career counseling and taking care of individuals. Now she builds coalitions to help entire communities.

Eager is a substance abuse prevention specialist with the nonprofit group Bridgeway Inc. While there are a wide variety of tasks for Eager and other prevention specialists, her main focus is mobilizing and coalition-building. She helps local community groups and governments work together to promote a healthy environment that aims to prevent youth substance abuse.

Through Bridgeway, she works with the Knox County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, which recently received the federal Drug Free Communities Grant.

Eager graduated from Bradley in 1994 with a master’s degree in counseling and began her career as a foster care therapist with Catholic Charities. She loved working with people, but also wanted to have an impact on entire communities.

“Working with the community is like working with people on a bigger scale,” she said.

She began as a volunteer for a community coalition connected with Bridgeway, then accepted a job with the organization and eventually helped start the Knox County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. She worked with similar groups in Henry County and helped develop substance abuse prevention programs in Louisiana.

The coalition takes different approaches to reducing substance abuse. In Knox County the coalition encouraged law enforcement to run compliance checks with retailers, ensuring retailers comply with required ID checks when selling alcohol and tobacco and can recognize fake IDs. Eager also coordinates partners in and out of the community in working with schools and local governments to curb abuse.

The Knox County group recently received the grant, but already has big plans for its use. Involving more community members will help energize the effort and bring fresh ideas to the table, and new programs are in the works.

Eager recognized her talent for making connections and building links between people while studying at Bradley. She held a graduate assistantship with the Counseling and Wellness office, where she learned to employ new, creative methods to solve problems.

Since graduating, Eager has remained engaged with the Bradley community. She recently became involved with the counseling department advisory board.

“I wanted to learn about what’s going on at the campus and share ideas with the school,” she said.