Polk applies for youth substance abuse grant

Published 8:00 am Friday, January 25, 2019

Drug Free Communities grant is up to $125K

COLUMBUS — After holding two forums in recent years to address the ongoing opioid crisis, Polk County is now applying for a grant to help fight youth substance abuse.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and heard from Kimberly McDonald, prevention specialist and Polk Substance Abuse Coalition coordinator.

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Commissioners approved applying for a grant up to $125,000 a year from Drug Free Communities to combat local substance abuse.

The Drug Free Communities Grant is a grant for youth substance abuse prevention and comes with the possibility of applying for an additional five years of funding.

DFC grantees have reduced drug use and abuse in communities throughout the country to lower than national averages because they are organized, data driven and take a comprehensive, multi-sector approach to solving and addressing drug issues, according to information provided to commissioners about the grant.

DFC grant counties have shown a decrease in high school student’s use of the several drugs, including an 18.8 percent decrease in alcohol, a 6 percent decrease in marijuana, a 28.2 percent decrease in tobacco and a 15.9 percent decrease in prescription drugs.

In middle school, DFC grantee counties have had even higher decreases in substance abuse. Data shows that there was a 27 percent decrease in alcohol use by middle schoolers, a 14 percent decrease in marijuana, a 31.7 percent decrease in tobacco and a 10.7 percent decrease in prescription drugs.

Polk County Consolidated Human Services Director Josh Kennedy read commissioners a letter of support of the grant from Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene.

“There is nothing more important in Polk County than our youth,” said Polk County Commissioner Chair Tommy Melton.

The grant is an opportunity for the county to continue the work it has been doing with the opioid forums. The forums have created a group of residents who are concerned about the substance abuse issues in the county and have created work groups to address the issues.

McDonald said the first goal of the grant, if awarded, will be to address substance abuse among Polk County youth and the second goal will be for adults.

The grant would pay for two people to focus on substance abuse prevention, which could include creating a youth council to allow youth to advocate for policy changes in their communities, youth-to-youth mentoring programs and training for youth and adults in substance abuse prevention.

The county should know sometime in August if it was awarded the grant.