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Clinton’s Human Services Department has been awarded a grant that provides substantial funding for the next five years to address substance abuse prevention and mental health needs among Clinton’s youth.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awards the department $286,389 per year for five years.
“The money is specifically for preventing and reversing teen alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine use, as well as improving and supporting mental health,” according to a release from the department. “We will have the ability to increase staff as well as our educational and leadership programs.”
The department will discuss a framework of the ways the money can be spent at a meeting on Monday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall Annex.
Kelley Edwards, head of Partners in Community (PIC), which works to combat youth substance abuse in town, said she applied for grant in March and found out that Clinton was awarded the grant in September. Out of more than 120 total grant recipients, four were in Connecticut. Clinton was the only municipality that was awarded the grant.
Human Services Director David Melillo said when applying for the grant, the department had to state three areas on which the department wanted to focus, and that one required area had to be underage drinking. Using data obtained in a survey of Clinton students in 2017, the department chose to additionally focus on combating teen vaping and marijuana use.
Melillo said that while some people may be curious as to why the town is focusing on teen marijuana use as opposed to opioid use, the data from the surveyed teens in Clinton did not back up focusing on opioids at this time.
“That’s not to say we wouldn’t address it,” Edwards added.
Edwards said that the town’s 7th through 12th graders will be surveyed this fall, and the results of the surveys will help the department determine what areas the organization should focus on. If the survey indicates an increase in abuse of another substance, the department can adjust and focus on that particular use.
“The data drives what you do,” said Melillo.
Edwards and Melillo both said that data from the surveys done every two years has shown that the department has been successful in reducing substance abuse among Clinton’s youth. Both of them credit that success to a community wide effort. Melillo noted that the department has been supported from the Police Department, the athletic department, the schools, and the town.
“It takes a coalition. It shows this is a town that is serious about raising healthy kids,” said Melillo.
Edwards said that individual programs don’t make the biggest impact when it comes making a difference in kid’s habits, but changing the culture surrounding the kids does.
“We see this as a community effort. There is a chance for any community member to have a voice in this,” said Edwards.
The grant was formally accepted at the Sept. 11 Board of Selectman meeting.
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