$250K Awarded to Two Local Substance Abuse Programs

By Marah Morrison
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan presented a total of $250,000 to the Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County and the Youngstown Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program to prevent youth substance abuse. 

Each group received $125,000 each from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at a check presentation Monday morning. Local communities need money invested into prevention and for every dollar of prevention, $28 is saved of people who don’t end up in the criminal justice system, Ryan said. 

“They don’t need treatment, they don’t have lost productivity because they lost their jobs, so all of that adds up,” he said. “A small, targeted investment into prevention goes a very long way.” 

The Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County’s mission is to “educate, advocate and empower the community to prevent substance abuse and improve mental health across Mahoning County.” 

In the last 30 days, 21.1% of seventh, ninth and 11th grade students in 13 Mahoning County school districts have consumed alcohol; 14.3% have used marijuana; 9.3% have smoked tobacco; 2.2% have used heroin; 3% have misused a prescription medication; and 28.2% have used a vape device or e-cigarette. This data was taken from the March 2018 PEP Survey conducted by the Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County.

“We hear often from community leaders who are really on the front lines, especially given the opiate issues in our community and across the country that they need more help,” said Ryan, D-13 Ohio. “The jails are overcrowded. The staff is stressed. First responders are getting burned out dealing with the crisis. We’ve got more to do in [Washington, D.C.] and part of that means more money back to the local communities.” 

At the community level, small amounts of money can have a large impact, said Angela DiVito, executive director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County.

“Not that it’s a small amount, but we’re able to do so much more with it than you would think looking at the surface of the check,” she said. “I think our most prevalent need we’ve seen so far is just the number of deaths we’ve experienced due to overdose.” 

Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County director Angela DiVito and Youngstown Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program director Darryl Alexander joined U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, center, in a check presentation Monday.

Mahoning County has been hit hard with substance abuse issues, DiVito said. Not only will the funding save lives and provide families with hope, it’s used to collect data around what the youth’s experiences are around drugs, she said. In addition, people who work with youth, whether it’s training for guidance counselors or for treatment professionals, can be impacted, she said. 

“We’re able to help educate them in the ways they can best serve the needs of young people and hopefully delay or prevent their substance use in the future,” DiVito said. “There’s no age that’s too young to start with drug prevention.” 

The funding provides an opportunity to work with and to engage families, and specifically young people as well, to try to deter them from drug and alcohol usage, said Darryl Alexander, executive director of the Youngstown Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program. The south side of Youngstown is currently being targeted, he said.

One of the stipulations in the funding is that it should focus on a targeted area rather than across a large region, Alexander said. The administration felt the impact would be greater, he said. 

“We ran the data, census information, drug and alcohol trends, crime trends and that area was the one that had the most problems,” Alexander said, noting that the organization is also looking at work on the East Side.

The Outreach Program is also looking to provide the Safe Homes program, a program that will target parents to commit publicly in terms of their homes being safe, Alexander said. If there are firearms in the home, they will be locked up, and marijuana and alcohol usage will be prohibited. 

Parents will be able to access an online registry and certify that their homes are safe, Alexander said, which will help paint a better picture of which communities are safest for families.

“If there were any issues within a home, a young person or another parent can contact that family and then they can contact who they need to, whether that’s Children’s Services or law enforcement,” Alexander said. “That will create an environment where we know these are safe homes in our community.” 

Safe Homes was developed by the Outreach Program and is expected to launch in January, Alexander said. The Outreach Program is always looking for community involvement and for people to be a part of the advisory committee to help tackle the substance abuse problem, he said. 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.