The Allen County Multi-Agency Team has been awarded a $125,000 Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grant.
The federal grant, a project of the White House Drug Policy office, recognizes locally based coalitions that aim to reduce the problems of youth substance abuse.
There was time only for an abbreviated burst of applause Tuesday afternoon when ACMAT co-chair Angela Murphy announced the good news to her colleagues during the coalition’s regularly scheduled meeting at Pizza Hut.
“We are excited, and we’re grateful,” said Murphy. “But now the celebration is out the window; it’s boots on the ground time. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
According to Brenda Salvati, a program director at Preferred Family Healthcare — the agency charged with facilitating the grant project on behalf of Allen County — ACMAT’s first order of business, in light of the increased funding, is to hire new staff.
“This is primarily a staff-driven grant,” explained Salvati. “You need somebody to make it happen.”
PFH and ACMAT are looking to hire one full-time employee responsible for collaborating with civic leaders in the area on the planning and implementation of strategies designed to curb alcohol, tobacco and other drug use in the community.
A primary goal of the newly emboldened coalition is to work hand in glove with area schools to arrive at their shared goal of a sober student body. To this end, PFH-ACMAT will also be hiring a part-time employee, who will work from within the school system, meeting with the target demographic on a regular basis.
Information about both positions can be found at www.pfh.org/careers/.
More than a year ago, ACMAT created an organizational subgroup — the Allen County Substance Abuse Task Force — devoted to shrinking the problem of underage drinking in the county. While that group will continue to pursue its goals, the DFC grant allows ACMAT, armed with newly hired personnel, to address a wider range of substance abuse dangers, including the menu of illicit drugs, prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco, as well as alcohol.
“Our goal is to make Allen County a safe and healthy environment for our youth,” explained Murphy. “Prevention is a powerful tool to counteract drug use in our community, and we will use this funding to help youth in Allen County make healthy choices about substance use.”
Reflecting on the positive effects finally having a dedicated full-time staffer will have on the coalition, and on the county, the group’s co-chair, Jaime Westervelt, summarized the group’s new mood: “I’m excited. We’ve all spent a lot of volunteer time coming here. But the person that we hire — this is their job, 40 hours a week. We’ll have somebody out there working in the community. We won’t hear, ‘Who’s ACMAT?’ anymore. They will know.”