County gets grant for drug & alcohol programs
The Morgan County Partnership was recently awarded a $77,313 2007 substance abuse prevention implementation grant. The Morgan County Commission will be the fiscal agent for the grant. Some 11 other counties received the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG) substance abuse prevention grants, which totaled $848,561.
The grant will fund a full-time project director, a full-time prevention community educator, a full-time master's level prevention clinician for a school-based health center and a part-time evaluator. The money will also partially fund a teen coordinator at the Boys and Girls Club and provide promotional and curriculum materials, training and a teen issues day planned for August.
A five-year $11 million+ federal Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG) given to West Virginia in 2004 funded these prevention implementation grants as well as the initial 2006 prevention planning grants for 53 counties and continued 2007 planning grants for 10 other counties.
Morgan County Partnership
The Morgan County Partnership members include more than 20 local and regional representatives from child welfare, early childhood education, schools, government, health care, community organizations, public health, adolescent health, teen pregnancy prevention, substance abuse prevention, churches, businesses and community development as well as parent and youth volunteers.
Partnership agencies include Starting Points, CASA, Morgan County Schools, East Ridge Health Systems, War Memorial Hospital, the Morgan County Extension Service, the Morgan County Health Department and the Boys and Girls Club of Morgan County.
The Morgan County Partnership began with the Active After-school coalition in 2000. The group pursued more programs for kids, joining resources and providing a healthy environment in which children and families could thrive. The Morgan County Partnership also organized the 2005 Morgan County Summit regarding a community recreation center. Their goal is making Morgan County a "safe, healthy and positive community."
Our county partnership was really strong and that made the difference in us being chosen as one of 12 counties for the implementation grant, said Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG) project director Jacqueline Fischer.
With the initial grant funding, the Morgan County Partnership received regional training and developed a countywide strategic plan for addressing substance abuse issues. They also conducted a needs assessment, identified areas of need and target population, examined existing and potential resources, gaps in services and community awareness and determined specific courses of action.
Third highest in state
The Morgan County Partnership found in its substance abuse research that county adult alcohol and binge alcohol consumption is third highest in the state, according to the Center For Disease Control Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. It also found that the drug mortality rate is 14th in West Virginia and 25% higher than the state average.
Morgan County is 16th in the state for illicit drug use among youth. Youth alcohol and drug use generally follow the adult use trends. Youth statistics are from the 2003 and 2005 Morgan County Pride Survey.
Use of some drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine, and ecstasy and steroids has risen in teens in Morgan County while it has decreased across the state. The Morgan County Partnership felt that county youth don't perceive the dangers of substance abuse. Berkeley Springs High School has had problems with student prescription medication abuse. Very little substance abuse counseling was available for at-risk youth, said Fischer.
Prevention plan goals
The goals of the Morgan County Partnership's prevention plan are to decrease illicit drug and alcohol use through youth and family education, increase awareness in youth and families of the dangers of substance abuse, and provide positive role models, support and healthy substance-free activities for teens.
The prevention program strategies include implementing court-ordered substance education courses for violators and families and having immediate fines for school-based offenses, which would give teens immediate consequences.
Some other strategies include decreasing actual use of alcohol and illegal drugs in Grades 7-9, increasing the communication between parents and children about the harmful effect of drugs and increasing the number of adult PASS program mentors, who serve as positive role models for kids.
Targeting students in grades seven-nine is the key because kids that age are the most emotionally open to some small intervention that can change their life course.
"The power of one person on a kid's life is so huge," said Fischer.
Some initiatives include a comprehensive substance abuse education plan for pre-K-grade 12 using existing and new resources and strengthening existing prevention programs, which include character education, peer mediation and health curriculum. Substance abuse counseling and support would be available 40 hours a week at a school health center.
An ongoing teen coffeehouse with an open mike session is planned as well as outdoor adventure activities for teens. Several parenting lectures have been sponsored at Starting Points and a monthly speakers' series radio talk show is planned for parents and the community on substance abuse and prevention issues.
"Ask the Experts" series
The monthly "Ask the Experts" call-in radio talk show on WDHC 92.9 FM will begin this Friday, May 18 at 4:30 p.m. with DJ Mike "Ironman" Fagan.
This Friday's session will feature psychotherapist Gary McDaniel, Morgan County Schools Assistant Superintendent Dave Banks and Berkeley Springs High School counselor Mike Marsh. The topic will be how to talk with your teens about drug and alcohol.
Questions for the program can be called in to WDHC at 258-1010.