by Kate Evans
The Morgan County Partnership was awarded a $702,864 grant for a three-year program that will provide parent education, school-based substance use prevention programming and therapeutic supports for county youth and families that are opioid and substance use affected.
The Partnership’s Opioid-Affected Youth Initiative grant was awarded by the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (OJJDP)
The Morgan County Partnership will work collaboratively with Morgan County Starting Points and Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Eastern Panhandle (CASA-EP) to provide youth mentorship supports to justice system-involved abused and neglected youth in the foster care system.
More than $300 million in grants was awarded by the Department of Justice to help combat the substance use crisis, which has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic and is devastating communities across the nation. The CDC reported an almost 30% increase in drug overdose deaths from April 2020 to April 2021, rising from an estimated 78,056 to 100,306 overdose deaths, according to a press release about the grants.
Morgan County Partnership Executive Director Kristen Gingery said that Morgan County has seen an influx of Child Protective Services referrals for adults and many children need long-term support. Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney Dan James said that the majority of active county child abuse and neglect cases are impacted by parental substance use.
During the summer, Gingery, James, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Debra McLaughlin, Cindy Largent-Hill- Children and Juvenile Services Division Director for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and the executive directors of Starting Points and CASA of the Eastern Panhandle met to plan the initiative based on the needs of the community, Gingery said.
Morgan County Partnership will be the fiscal agent for the grant and will hire a project director and two parent/youth interventionists to provide the evidence-based life skills training to elementary, middle and high school students and adults.
Parent/youth interventionists will teach life skills training to parents involved in juvenile abuse and neglect cases resulting from opioid or substance use. The parent life skills classes will also be open to parents in the community who are seeking to strengthen communication with children, build the skills needed to be a good role model and deter youth substance use.
The Morgan County Partnership will also provide school-based Tier 2 small group interventions and Tier 3 therapeutic supports to opioid affected youth in Morgan County through their existing K-5 Therapeutic Support Program and 6-12th grade Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) programs.
Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Eastern Panhandle (CASA-EP) will create a new youth facilitator position that will provide mentorship and case management support to opioid affected, justice-involved youth in Morgan County. The agency supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children.
The youth facilitator will offer the Great Life Mentoring Program which will provide one-on-one mentoring intervention, support and companionship to these youth. They will also select 10 Morgan County opioid-affected youth to participate in the Daring Way, BOLD Skills-building Workshop, a program that will promote courage, confidence, compassion, self-discovery and leadership.
The CASA-EP youth facilitator will also work with older county youth that are facing aging out of the foster care system and provide them with intensive mentorship and case management.
Starting Points will be providing and supervising the parent education. Parents will enroll in a court-ordered parent education course, Gingery said. The Starting Points parent navigator will directly assist parents in case management so they complete their court-ordered improvement terms and are successful in parent reunification.
At Starting Points, justice-involved parents will enroll in and complete a Parent Nurturing class, a Budget and Financial Literacy Program to review their finances and set financial goals and a Life Skills Education program.
The parent navigator will also work with grandparents raising grandchildren as a result of parental substance use and enroll them in Healthy Grandfamilies program for information on parenting, family relationships, technology, social media, healthy lifestyles and stress management.
The Starting Points parent navigator will also help parents schedule appointments for drug screenings, behavioral health providers and therapy, assist with job searching and other support.
Gingery was excited that the grant will provide a number of job positions locally for the three agencies. They each hope to absorb the newly created positions within their agencies after the three-year grant period has expired. They plan to apply for local, state, federal, and foundation funding to continue the project.
The Morgan County Partnership also received two additional funding awards, Gingery said. The first is a $254,367 University of Baltimore Combating Opioid Overdose through Community-level Intervention (COCLI) grant.
This grant will fund four positions at the Partnership-a project director and three therapeutic interventionists-and one community-based prevention facilitator at Life or Drugs Tri-State Support.
They also received notification that they were awarded $200,000 from Senator Joe Manchin’s Congressionally Directed Spending Request Fund, which is earmarked funding, Gingery said. The award will support collaborative efforts to prevent underage drinking and substance use.
Gingery said the funding will support their Positive Action and Too Good for Drugs programs, their Developmental Asset and Pride Surveys, and the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program.
These monies will also create two new program facilitator positions and two new social work/therapeutic counselor positions.