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African American Opioid Coalition

improving wellness of black families


our goals

The African American Opioid Coalition (AAOC) of Safe Communities is a coalition of Black leaders representing organizations with a role to play to prevent drug harm in Dane County’s Black community. AAOC goals are: to improve the overall wellness of Black families; to educate about impacts of opioid addiction in the African American community; and to have a place at the table (not on the menu!) to inform policies and practices affecting Black families. 

AAOC: know the facts


50% of prescription opioids misused by African Americans obtained from a friend or relative.


Overdose death rate 3x higher among Dane County's Black residents than White

575% Higher

Increase in cocaine and opioid mortality in Black people versus 184% increase in White people.

African American Opioid Coalition


Itina Johnson

African American Opioid Coalition & Traffic Safety Project Coordinator

My name is Itina Johnson. I am the project coordinator for the African American Opioid Coalition (AAOC). I am passionate about working in an environment focused on addressing multi-cultural and socio-economic issues. I am a talented and compassionate communicator with a master’s degree in addiction studies, a bachelor’s degree in social work and a license in substance abuse counseling. I had the pleasure of being an AmeriCorps member where I volunteered my time working with various organizations. My experience includes working with individuals with mental health or substance use disorders through Housing Forward, where I helped house 67 people using the housing first model; with Thresholds to provided case management to support people affected by mental health or substance use disorders transition from institutional to independent, community-based housing; and with ARC Community Services providing substance abuse counselling to women through intensive outpatient programming.

My goal is to provide equal opportunities to the underserved population. I am working with the AAOC and Safe Communities to implement programs that will remove barriers and support efforts to end deaths from despair, prevent falls and help with traffic safety initiatives.


Charlestine “Charlie” Daniel


Affectionately called Ms. Charlie in the village. She is the Director and Founder of the African American Opioid Coalition and the program coordinator for falls prevention at Safe Communities Madison-Dane County.

She has been an advocate and ally to underrepresented groups for over 35 years. She retired from the Wisconsin Technical College System as the education director for Minority Students Participation and Displaced Homemakers. She has been the recipient of many awards in the village, including. YWCA Women of Distinction, NAACP, Community Shares Sally Sunde award, City of Madison James C. Wright award, and the Dane County Martin Luther King, Jr. award to name a few.

She is the past president of Access Community Health Centers, a member of the African American Health Network, Wisconsin Women of Color Network and the Madison Metropolitan Links, Inc. She studied at Jackson State College, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the University of London.

Candace M. McDowell


Candace retired with Emerita status after serving 22 years as the Assistant Dean/Director of the Multicultural Student Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She has been volunteering and serving the community in various capacities since her retirement including her service as member and secretary for the African American Opioid Coalition.

She recently began working part time as a Project Coordinator for the African American Health Network and Vaccine Educator for UW Health.

Carola Gaines


Carola is the Community Liaison Manager/Sr. Advocate, for Quartz Health Solutions.
She has worked for Quartz and UW Health for 27 years, serving Medicaid families in advocating and creating programs that support their health and assist in removing barriers to receive quality health care. Her goals are to coordinate and provide a heightened level of support to Quartz BC+ providers and BC+ membership, by implementing innovative programs to improve access to care and striving to decrease health inequities.

Carola serves on several community Boards and committees. She is Co-Chair of AAHN, Co-Chair African American Health Network, Board Chair of the Rainbow Project, Board member the Foundation for Black Women Wellness, Secretary, One City School, Chair of Safe Sleep African-American Faith base initiative and member of Dane County Health Council and several other committees. She has received numerous awards and is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Jewel A

Jewel Adams


Hi, my name is Jewel Adams. My pronouns are she/her. 

I have been in recovery since 08-24-2004. I have been with Safe Communities since August of 2018. My passion is helping others and my hobby is dancing.

My favorite part about my job is knowing I can make a difference in another person’s life when I show up for them!

resources for Black families


AAOC Programs

our programs

Over 70% of people who misuse prescription drugs for the first time get these medicines from people they know with or without asking. This is why the AAOC holds collection events in community settings, and provides medication lock boxes to households who need a safe storage option.

A spilled bottle of pills on a black background


 Twice per year, as part of National Drug Take Back Days in April and October, AAOC leads community collection events at Madison locations. AAOC volunteers join Dane County Sheriff’s Office and Madison Police Department officers to provide a safe, environmentally-friendly option for area residents to dispose of unused medicines. This partnership between Black leaders and law enforcement is just one example of how AAOC fosters life-saving collaborations.   



Safe Communities recovery coaches are people with lived experience who are specially trained to help community members struggling with addiction find recovery. Call our 24-7 Recovery Coach Helpline at (608) 228-1278 to connect with a coach. Click here to meet team. 

medication lock boxes


If a family member is prescribed medicines, it’s critical to keep those medicines locked up and out of reach. Safely locking up prescription medicines is an important first step to keeping family members safe. The AAOC has distributed over 500 lock boxes to community members at festivals, MedDrop Sundays and other events.  

MedDrop sundays


Three times each year, AAOC members, in partnership with local law enforcement, host medication collection events and distribute lock boxes to congregants after Sunday services. Thanks to the following churches for hosting MedDrop Sundays: Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Second Baptist, St. Paul AME, SS Morris AME, End Times Ministries International, Christ the Solid Rock

recovery support


AAOC members contribute time, resources and funding to help. They provide bus passes and clothing allowances to assist with job searches, rental assistance and referrals to culturally-competent mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Thanks to UW Health, Project Respect/ARC Community Services and AAOC members and friends for funding these efforts.

ending deaths from despair


Safe Communities & AAOC partner to host a free webinar series called Ending African American Deaths from Despair and is a 5-day virtual conference bringing together an impressive line-up of speakers on topics relevant to the AAOC community and broader Dane County Area including drug poisoning and suicide prevention.


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Treatment Key

Safe communities has complied a list of abbreviation definitions for finding the right treatment for you.

MAT: Medication for Addiction Treatment.
OP: Outpatient Treatment – person lives at home or in the community, attends. individual and group therapy, these can include or not include MAT.
IOP: Intensive Outpatient Treatment – person lives at home or in the community, attends individual and extended groups, 9-12 hours a week.
Residential: person lives at the facility for a period of at least 14 days, some last as many as 45 days.
PHP: Partial Hospitalization Program is a structured mental health treatment program that runs for several hours each day, three to five days per week.
DBT: Dialectical behavior therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that integrates mindfulness techniques.