BENNINGTON — A local group has been awarded $125,000 to reduce substance abuse in the community, mainly amongst youth.
The Alliance for Community Transformations (ACT) announced Wednesday that the Drug Free Communities Grant, awarded by the Office of the White House and Office of National Drug Control Policy, is renewable for up to five years, and can be applied for again for another five.
For each year's renewal, ACT must show that it furthered its stated goals, produced measurable results, and received tangible support from the community. Each year the amount of in-kind services requires increases, said Kiah Morris, director of the Alliance. In-kind services can be in the form of donations, sponsorships, and donated time or resources.
Morris said a large portion of the grant funds personnel costs in the form of her salary and benefits. "
"It does pay for programmatic costs, and that includes everything from specific initiatives, like a middle school skate, to paying for mileage for people to go trainings or paying for mileage so they don't have to pay those things out-of-pocket, helping to purchase items that may be needed, even curriculum for parenting classes," she said. "It's a wide range of things included under programmatic costs, and then there's just your general overhead that's needed."
About $30,000 of the yearly grant goes to programs, the rest is between personnel and overhead.
"Our goal is to have additional personnel in the future but in year one that is all we could make happen with this year's funds. We did allocate funds for an evaluator though in this fiscal year on a contractual basis. Other funds support overhead, bookkeeping, financial reporting and more."
Being able to show measurable outcomes are key, Morris said.
"If it's not measurable, then that's worrisome, because that's time and money you spent you can't actually justify towards the end," she said.
The work the grant will fund involves helping existing organizations to better work with each other and improve the community. Morris said the "War on Drugs" and "Just Say No" approach has not worked and that improving the community so youth don't turn to drugs in the first place is what's needed.
ACT is currently committed to about two dozen projects, among them reexamining the serving of alcohol at events where children are present.
"I'm not saying these events need to be dry, but how do we go about changing the messaging around them?" she said. "If we create an environment where alcohol is everywhere, how does that impact the message youth are getting around alcohol use? if we bring marijuana into the home environment, how does that change the message around the perception of harm?"
ACT will continue its involvement with the Bennington County Prescription Drug Task Force, which has in recent years created several drop-off points for unwanted prescriptions in order to keep them from being misused. It also plans to strengthen local parenting classes and assist with Bennington's Project Catalyst, a crime and drug abuse reduction initiative.
She said that in 2011, the Vermont Rural Development Council came to Bennington and organized a large group of meetings which later became working groups with the goal of improving the town.
"At one of those meetings there was a group from the high school, and these young people were very eloquent, involved, and forthright with what they had to offer at the meeting," said Krautheim. "My heart broke when one young woman said that the young people in Bennington felt unwanted. Since then, I've made it my personal goal to try to improve Bennington for all of its young people. The future of Bennington depends on how well all the children in our community feel."
She said people turn to drugs when they feel there is no hope in their lives, and there are studied show that the later in life someone uses a drug, the less likely they are to abuse it or develop an addiction.
"This grant does not give money for ACT with the expectation that we alone will rid Bennington of drug abuse," said Krautheim. "The drug free community grant provides money for ACT to facilitate projects that community organizations and businesses see as guiding our youth towards making good choices "