Although 2013 is just getting started, the Mount Kisco Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Council has hit the ground running with an ambitious plan to use a large federal grant for combatting substance use among youth.
The council, with Mount Kisco as its fiscal agent, was one of only dozens of recipients to receive a Drug Free Communities Support Program (DFC) grant. Dr. Nan Miller, who is a coordinator for the group, said the council was approved for $125,000 last fall.
The grant can be renewed annually for up to five years, with an additional $125,000 each year. It can then be followed up with another comprehensive application, which can lead to an another five years. The DFC program has funded more than 1,600 community coalitions, according to the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.
In exchange for the funding, the council must show that it has met goals and to provide volunteer hours that can be counted as an in-kind match of the funding. The council will have an online time sheet program to help with its volunteer records keeping and received a demonstration at its meeting from its developer, Bob Kearney, who has also helped the SPCA.
The council got crucial backing from the Village Board of Trustees on Monday when it voted to green light having the group that helped in getting the grant, the Student Assistance Services Corporation, provide support in using it.
“We were mentored by them," Miller said.
Youth substance abuse is a significant problem, Miller explained at the council's meeting on Wednesday at Village Hall. She said they are addressing substance usage, along with prevention work, to combat it. As examples of substances to deal with, she cited alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs.
The goal is to bring about cultural change, Miller explained, citing how tobacco smoking has become less socially acceptable over the year.
“This is to change the environment,” she said.
Miller said that the causes of substance abuse range from positive attitudes from young people and parents about usage, a perception of substance use for fun and easy access. An example of the later problem, Miller explained, is "shoulder tapping," which a person who is not old enough to drink will get someone who is to purchase alcohol for them, even though it is illegal to do so.
With the grant money available, the council plans to build a broad coalition of people with different backgrounds and is forming special committees to tackle organization in topics such as outreach, by-laws and assessment.
A committee geared towards youth and including them is also part of the strategy. While the grant is just for Mount Kisco, students from throughout Fox Lane High School in general can be on it, council Chairman Mel Berger explained. Among those on it is Lauren Beeson, a student assistance counselor at Fox Lane.
The funds will help with a series of outreach initiatives, which include surveys of youth and parents, media campaigns, focus groups and parental education. Existing programs, such as education about serving drinks responsibly and a prescription drugs take-back day, were also discussed.
The council, which has programs ranging from a shelter partnership for the homeless to court-ordered drug treatment, is also being honored this year by the Mount Kisco Chamber of Commerce, Berger said. A reception will be held in May and Berger wants to use the occasion as a chance to show what the council has to offer to the public.