Drug coalition

The Keene Family YMCA’s coalition aimed at preventing kids from using drugs has been awarded federal funding for the first time through the Drug Communities Support Program.

Two other area agencies, Reality Check of Jaffrey and We’ve Got Your Back of Winchester, were chosen to continue receiving this grant for the fourth and 10th year, respectively. All three were awarded $125,000.

The Y’s Community Coalition on Youth Substance Use, formed last year in response to the apparent overdose death of a 16-year-old Keene High School student, aims at reducing youth substance use and strengthening community partnerships.

“Some funding will be used to increase awareness of these issues and the underlying causes, increase community support and provide training for some of the staff involved in this project,” said Peter Sebert, healthy lifestyles director for the Y and one of the grant proposal writers, in a news release from the Y.

Officials for Reality Check and We’ve Got Your Back said funding will be used for new and continuing programs.

Reality Check provides drug and alcohol prevention services to the Jaffrey-Rindge and Mascenic school districts, totaling nearly 2,500 students and almost 19,000 residents, according to CEO and founder Mary Drew.

The grant, Drew said, will fund prevention-education curriculum and campaigns in the school districts, and developing support groups and trauma-informed services, among other programs. The organization also hosts community events with presentations on substance-use trends and makes referrals to mental health and treatment services.

We’ve Got Your Back — formed by parents and town, school and local business officials — aims to reduce underage drinking, binge drinking and illegal substance use in Winchester by providing preventive resources in the community.

The group works to bring drug education programs into schools, hosts community discussions on marijuana use, offers summer day and overnight camps for at-risk youth and has a youth coalition. Along with other programs and services, We’ve Got Your Back also provides referrals to mental health and treatment services.

Missy Calderwood, drug free community coordinator for We’ve Got Your Back, noted the federal funding runs out at the 10-year mark, meaning the group is in its last year of receiving money.

“Funding is so important to continue moving forward with prevention,” Calderwood said in an email Monday. “It’s believed the coalitions should be self-sustaining, but with poor communities, such as Winchester, they would be unable to sustain what the [Drug Free Communities] grants provide.”

The group is in discussion with federal legislators on extending the money, with many other state recipients in the same boat, according to Calderwood.

Statewide, a total of 10 organizations total were awarded the grants, which are administered by the Office of National Drug Policy and supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Groups are eligible for the same amount in renewal grants for the four years after the initial award, according to Allan Rodriguez, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. Groups can reapply for another five years of funding.

The grant — backed by Shaheen, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., and Chris Pappas, D-N.H. — is part of the Drug Free Communities Support Program, a national effort to mobilize communities to prevent youth substance use.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.