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Grant to combat youth drug use

October 26, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

District Justice Larry Pentz said Friday that not a week goes by in his Waynesboro office that he doesn't deal with a heroin-related incident.

"It saddens me," he said.

Pentz was one of more than a dozen Franklin County government and social service agency officials at a press conference in the Waynesboro Area School District office to announce a $435,000 state grant aimed at reducing drug and alcohol abuse among young people in Waynesboro.

The money is part of a $9 million state appropriation aimed at preventing substance abuse in young people that is being shared by 17 counties. The grant, which runs over three years, focuses on youths between 12 and 17 and targets Waynesboro as a problem community for drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

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Jim Rodgers, Franklin/Fulton County Drug and Alcohol Program administrator, said the number of Waynesboro-area clients needing drug and alcohol treatment has increased significantly over the last two years. Case managers estimate that caseloads in the area have increased from 20 percent last year up to 33 percent of their caseload.

"That's a disproportionate percentage, considering the total population of Franklin and Fulton counties," Rodgers said.

There has been an increase of up to 50 percent in the number of Waynesboro-area residents addicted to heroin in the last year alone, significantly higher than anywhere else in the two counties, he said.

K. Marilyn Smith, a member of the Waynesboro Area School board and a mobilizer in the Waynesboro Communities That Care program, was singled out by several speakers for taking the lead in securing the grant.

Members of Communities That Care and the Franklin County Human Services Administration recruited a coalition of 16 partners, including government, police and social services groups that will collaborate on the program.

The grant will bolster the financial resources of local agencies and service groups that work in substance abuse programs, with an emphasis on reaching young people at an earlier age.

Prevention efforts, all in the Waynesboro area, will include implementation of the Too Good for Drugs curriculum in the schools, startup of the Community Youth Aid Panels for first-time juvenile offenders, a public awareness campaign targeting youth and their parents on the susceptibility of youth to alcohol and drug use, and expansion of alternative activities for youth that discourage the use of drugs and alcohol.

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