MONTPELIER (AP) - As part of a statewide push to effectively combat drug crime, Vermont will compete with as many as a dozen other states for up to $3 million to support strategies to improve the success rates for keeping ex-offenders from returning to prison.

Vermont officials and other state officials attended a Washington, D.C., forum Thursday hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance for states that previously won planning grants through the Statewide Recidivism Reduction program.

The program encourages states to reduce the rate of offenders re-committing crimes and officials say the states that develop effective programs "can serve as national models."

Other states invited to attend the forum included Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

U.S. Department of Justice representatives in attendance highlighted how the federal government can partner with states on cost-effective plans.

Vermont Department of Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito said in a statement that receiving the next round of grants would help the state build capacity to implement their recidivism reduction plans.

Monica Weeber of the Vermont Department of Corrections said the plans dovetail with Gov. Peter Shumlin's state goals and with legislation aimed at streamlining the process for pre-screening and identifying offenders who might be a fit for drug treatment instead of prison.

The planning grant money spurred the creation of a recidivism task force made up of multiple state departments, including Corrections, Health, Children and Families, community partners, health centers, lawmakers and judges, Weeber said.

The state will send its final plans to the Bureau of Justice Assistance by the middle of June and will then apply for the additional grants. The winning states will be announced at the end of September.