- Rick McCrabb Staff Writer
After being without funding for one year, the Coalition for a Healthy Middletown was notified Thursday it would receive $125,000 a year for the next five years.
Kristy Duritsch, director of the local agency, felt “excitement and relief” when she was told Middletown received one of the 719 Drug-Free Communities Support Program grants totaling $89 million.
The grants will provide local community coalitions funding to prevent youth substance use, including prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol. Duritsch said part of Middletown’s grant will be used to pay the salary of a full-time prevention specialist to work with the 12 sectors of the community to increase protective factors and reduce risk factors in youth.
Last year, Middletown’s five-year grant wasn’t renewed and DeAnna Shores, who worked closely with the schools, lost her job with the agency. Middletown reapplied for the grant, said Duritsch, who hopes to have a job description written soon and begin the hiring process.
She called a prevention specialist “the piece we have been missing.”
Now, Duritsch said, it’s time to “continue to rebuild” what the agency started before its funding was cut.
“Our goal is to make Middletown a safe and drug-free place for our youth,” she said. “Prevention is a powerful tool to counteract drug use in our community, and we will use this funding to help youth in Middletown make healthy choices about substance use.”
While many organizations work with those addicted to drugs, the goal of the Middletown coalition is to mentor children before they choose drugs.
“Work closely on the front end” is how Duritsch described the strategy. “We have to connect people and instill coping skills. We have a lot of work to do.”
Richard Baum, acting director of National Drug Control Policy, said 60,000 people per year are dying from drug overdoses.
“But if we can stop young people from starting to use drugs in the first place, we can save lives,” he said in a press release. “Our local DFC coalitions are a key part of this effort because they are bringing together parents groups, schools, healthcare professionals, law enforcement, businesses, and others to prevent drug use and improve the health of the community.”