Teen coalition gets vote of confidence
Federal grant provides 4 years’ support for Communities that Care initiatives
Congressman second district Democrat
It wasn’t a pretty picture a year ago, when the Franklin County Communities that Care Coalition, after 10 years, ran out of funding to continue its teen substance abuse prevention programs.
That news came even as coalition staff unveiled results of its annual survey, showing a three-year decline in the number of teens drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
But the news Tuesday was less mixed: The coalition is the only program of its kind in the state to win a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to run three prevention and education programs over the next four years. The grant will provide $47,250 annually over the next four years.
“I want to make sure everyone here understands the importance of this award,” Congressman James McGovern said in announcing the award Tuesday in a conference room that displayed some of the findings from the coalition’s annual community survey.
“There were 250 applicants nationwide. There were only 17 awards. This was the only award made here in Massachusetts. The coalition’s focus on youth recognition by parents, community and schools is a national model for sustainable, positive change. You have listened to the community, identifying challenges and defining shared goals. By incorporating members from all walks of life to address these issues on every level, you have shown that efforts driven by the community produce extraordinary results.”
The Communities Care program has been run by Franklin Regional Council of Governments with $225,000 in federal funds, which was stretched this past year to keep the program running a year longer than originally intended.
Just in time, the new funding will allow the coalition to keep supporting three programs: an “alcohol purchase survey” that sends undercover, underage purchasers into stores to check compliance with the law, an “above the influence” campaign to discourage substance abuse by building self-esteem and healthy relationships, and a parent campaign to encourage positive family relationships.
All three have played a role in successfully reducing youth substance abuse in the region since the coalition began in 2003, said program Director Kat Allen.
The latest survey results, unveiled Tuesday, show a further decline in alcohol use, binge drinking, and marijuana use, with a slight increase in tobacco use since 2012.
The survey of students in grades 8, 10 and 12 across Franklin County and North Quabbin, shows that 71 percent reported no alcohol use in the preceding 30 days, with a 39 percent decline in the minority that does report drinking. It also shows a reduction in the rate of binge drinking — five or more drinks on a single occasion — from 48 percent among 12th graders in 2003 to 28 percent in 2012, below the national rate of 32 percent.
The survey showed a 33 percent reduction in marijuana use since 2003, with 81 percent of teens reporting no marijuana use in the past 30 days. It also shows a 33 percent drop in the rate of teen cigarette smoking since 2003.
The coalition’s parent program, rather than preaching to parents what they should or shouldn’t be doing, simply promotes the social norms that have a positive impact, such as those shown in a 2011 survey that said 78 percent of local parents have a family dinner with their teens most nights. The coalition staff said Tuesday they hope to find local business sponsors to help the parent campaign sustain itself beyond the four years of grant funding.
On the Web: www.communitiesthatcarecoalition.org.
You can reach Richie Davis at:
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269