Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Grant Could Help Keep Teens Off Drugs

By MATT DEES, Staff Writer, News & Observer

CHAPEL HILL -- A local group plans to spend $1 million in resources over the next five years to reduce teenage drinking and drug use in Orange and Chatham counties, after it landed a federal grant last week.

The Community Backyard, a nonprofit group that works to improve mental health treatment for adolescents, received a $100,000 Drug Free Communities grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The grant can be renewed annually for five years, or $500,000, and the group must raise a matching $100,000 each year to get it.

The Community Backyard already has received cash and in-kind donations, such as experts' volunteer time, to match the first $100,000.


Congress created the Drug-Free Communities Program in 1997.

In December 2001, Congress passed and the president signed a five-year extension of the Drug-Free Communities Act, authorizing $399 million through fiscal year 2007.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy administers the program in conjunction with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

For more information, see www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov and drugfreecommunities.samhsa.gov.

The group was one of 176 new grantees selected from 411 applicants, according to a news release.

"You have to have demonstrated results," Executive Director Isabel Geffner said.

"We were inquisitive. We were relentless. And we wrote a ... good grant proposal," she said.

The money will help enhance the work of The Community Backyard and its partner organization, the Committee for Alcohol- and Drug-Free Teenagers.

The latter group has gained attention over the past year as it has lobbied police to crack down on underage drinking, a problem group founder Dale Pratt-Wilson calls an epidemic.

Town hall meetings discussing ways to curb access to and change attitudes about underage drinking will continue in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area and begin in northern Orange County and Chatham County, Geffner said.

The groups will also start marketing campaigns to discourage young people from using drugs, alcohol or tobacco, and older people from condoning such activities, Pratt-Wilson said. It also plans to reach out to the local Latino and faith communities.

"We have to change the social norm from 'It's no big deal, everybody does it, I did it,' to 'It's unhealthy, it's unsafe, and it's illegal,' " Pratt-Wilson said.

Staff writer Matt Dees can be reached at 932-8760 or mdees@newsobserver.com.