Federal grants made available to help substance abuse victims

Jeff Burnett, Staff Writer

Community groups in Illinois will receive $3.2 million in federal grants from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to help prevent youth substance abuse across the state.

“By working alongside local coalitions, we can better address the root causes and unique dynamics of substance abuse in each community and prevent kids from becoming addicted in the first place,” Sen. Dick Durbin said in a statement.

Twenty-four community organizations will each receive roughly $125,000, but most of the funds will go to groups in the northern and southwestern region of the state, along with some going to the central Illinois area.

“The majority of the funding will go into the Chicago, St. Louis, and the Bloomington-Normal area,” said Valerie Gebhardt, the alcohol and other drug (AOD) prevention coordinator at the Unversity of Illinois Springfield, “The prevention funding will not be in our area.”

Gebhardt said it’s possible some of the local organizations in the Springfield area did not apply for the funding this year, but added that it was “interesting” we would not see any of the funds in the area.

The grant money would go directly to Drug Free Community (DFC) Support Program coalitions in communities to organize and avert the youth from abusing substances like prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol. The funding also supports strategic planning, training, technical assistance, salary, benefits, and travel for its members.

Gebhardt said the federal grants “won’t pay for youth mentoring or after school youth programs.”  The ONDCP, announced in a statement that it would provide $85.9 million in federal grants for its 698 DFC Support Programs across the country.

“The evidence-based prevention work led by local DFC community coalitions is critically needed to reduce youth substance [abuse], particularly in the midst of the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemic,” ONDCP Director Michael Botticelli said in a statement.

In a 2014 DFC National Evaluation Report of all grantees ever funded indicated that middle schoolers living in communities with coalitions had significant reductions of substance abuse within a 30 day period:  24.4 percent with alcohol, 29.4 percent with tobacco, and 15.1 percent with marijuana.

That report also showed that teens in high school reduced their alcohol use by 15.5 percent, tobacco by 23.7 percent, and marijuana by 4.9 percent.

“I think prevention works and according to reports there is a decrease when there is prevention efforts,” said Gebhardt.

Since DFC’s formation in 1998, the ONDCP has awarded more than 2,000 DFC grants, supports 4.4 million middle school students, 6.3 million high school students, and represents 36 percent of all youth in the country.

“Drug-Free Communities coalitions make a vital difference at the community level – reaching out to people where they live with the help they need to prevent substance use,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Principal Deputy Administrator Kana Enomoto said in a statement.

In 1997, congress passed the Drug Free Communities Act, which provides financial support to community-based coalitions to address and prevent local youth substance use. The law allocates funding from the federal government to the ONDCP, who oversee the DFC program and disburses those funds to each of its coalitions.