Recent grant supported by D.C. training

Published 6:51 pm Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Washington Parish Coalition on Human Services recently received a $125,000 grant to combat marijuana and alcohol abuse by area youth.

Drug-Free Communities Support Program Director for Washington Parish Coalition on Human Services Rhonda Gunnell and ADAPT Executive Director Charlette Fornea recently traveled to Washington, D.C., for training after receiving a $125,000 federal grant.

“In Washington, D.C., we were given instruction on coalition building in drug-free communities and how to submit documentation online for program and fiscal reports so we’ll stay in compliance as the grant dictates,” Fornea said.

According to the program’s overview, the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, or DFC, is a federal grant program that provides funding to community-based coalitions that organize to prevent youth substance abuse. Since the passage of the DFC Act in 1997, the program has funded more than 2,000 coalitions and mobilizes approximately 9,000 community volunteers across the country. The philosophy behind the program is that local drug problems require local solutions.

The Washington Parish Coalition was one of four in the state to receive funding. Nationally, 427 coalitions received funding.

“Two of the substances we chose were marijuana and alcohol, based on information and data the youth themselves gave us in the Caring Communities Youth Surveys,” Fornea said.

Gunnell and Fornea went to D.C. in early December. They will return with youth representation next month.

“One of the things we hoped to accomplish was to expand the coalition to include youth representation,” Fornea said.

Local student leaders selected to travel to D.C. for the Feb. 1-5 conference are Abbigail Thomas, Fallon Turner, Grace Anne Fornea, Kirsten Barber, Jonathan Pierce and Justin Gunnell.

Gunnell said student involvement is meant to resemble the trickle-down theory.

“The students will go back to their schools and begin recruiting and training other youth leaders,” Gunnell said.

Gunnell said when the grant is exhausted, they can reapply for five more years to receive $125,000 each year. The grant is awarded through the Office of Health and Hospitals.

“The grant was very competitive,” Fornea said. “Writing the grant took hundreds of hours of preparation.”

Fornea said feedback from student surveys prove there is a problem.

“Marijuana use is underreported,” Fornea said. “We needed more interventions in alcohol and marijuana. Our student surveys tell us that. The surveys definitely show the need for intervention for some awareness and prevention education to reduce the use of alcohol and marijuana.”

Gunnell said a look at other forms of drug abuse is possible.

“We’re also looking at prescription drugs. As the needs change, we can change our plan of action,” Gunnell said.

Fornea said the training also helped widen the local delegation’s network of contacts.

“The training was very intense. One of the most important things was we made contacts with people in Washington and with other coalitions throughout the United States,” Fornea said. “That helped us with other ideas and networking opportunities.”