DeKALB – County health officials’ renewed focus on curbing alcohol and drug abuse among children was bolstered this week with a $125,000 federal grant.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy awarded $7.9 million in Drug-Free Communities Support Program grants nationwide, including $125,000 to the DeKalb County Partnership for a Safe, Active & Family Environment.
The grant was the ninth installment of a 10-year program to kick-start community coalitions focused on reducing drug and alcohol abuse. Anna Stevens, prevention and education program manager, said efforts have been strong in the county, but drug and alcohol abuse need to be more of a focus.
Stevens said the DCP/SAFE group is divided into multiple coalitions, such as violence prevention and Latino action groups, which have taken some of the focus off drug and alcohol issues.
“We’re really looking at reinventing the DCP/SAFE coalition,” Stevens said. “It’s important to bring everyone back to the table and have people that are passionate and will put some fresh eyes on the issue.”
Youth use of alcohol and drugs has plateaued, Stevens said, and the problems have shifted to new areas such as prescription and synthetic drugs.
The county has done well to keep problems in check, especially with a large university in the area, she said, but a greater focus could break through the plateau.
“There has been no spikes, which is a huge plus,” she said. “But it’s tough to say we’ve had a significant impact.”
With a year remaining in the Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant, and funding being threatened by federal spending cuts, Stevens said now is the time to make sure programs such as DCP/SAFE are sustainable.
“The grant is sort of set up to ideally get coalitions to a place where they can sustain themselves after grants run out,” she said. “We need to make sure we have volunteers who are coming because they want to be there.”
The rate of overall drug use in the United States has declined by roughly 30 percent since 1979, according to the National Drug Control Policy office.