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Drug-abuse prevention organization gets grant

October 07, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Jefferson County, W.Va., drug-abuse prevention organization has received $100,000 in federal funds to help it continue trying to turn youths away from drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse.

The funding, announced by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., helps the FOCUS Coalition continue offering classes on substance abuse and conducting after-school programs, said Christa Shifflett, executive director of the group.

At local elementary schools, FOCUS representatives offer lessons during the school day in hopes of drawing the students to similar programs after school, Shifflett said.

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One of the more popular after-school programs is held at Page Jackson Elementary School, where about 35 children participate. At Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Middle School, a substance-abuse prevention club is so popular that children have to be turned away, Shifflett said.

"We get pretty good numbers," Shifflett said.

FOCUS estimates that cigarette smoking has dropped 28 percent among eighth-graders with whom the group has worked.

The federal funding also helps pay for undercover sting operations designed to prevent underage alcohol abuse. In the sting operations, conducted by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and the Shepherdstown Police Department, underage youths go into establishments such as stores and attempt to buy alcohol, Shifflett said.

Stores that sell alcohol to the youths are cited, Shifflett said.

The money helps pay police officers overtime for the work, Shifflett said.

The federal funding follows a five-year, $425,000 grant that FOCUS received for its work, Shifflett said. The $100,000 is expected to be a part of another $425,000 grant if federal funding continues for the program, she said.

FOCUS, which stands for Free Our Citizens of Unhealthy Substances, was formed in 1990.

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