Grant for Scituate follows reported uptick in marijuana use

Grant for Scituate follows reported uptick in marijuana use

SCITUATE - The town of Scituate has received a federal grant of more than $500,000 to combat illicit drug abuse among town teenagers, one of only 11 communities in Rhode Island to receive such funds.

Erica McCormick, a town resident and coordinator of the Scituate Prevention Partnership, informed the Town Council at its Oct. 9 meeting that the $525,000 grant covers a five-year period and is part of a total $11 million award the state received to combat alcohol, marijuana and prescription drug abuse among 12- to 17-year-olds.

"Mostly marijuana" will be the focus of the Scituate effort, she said.

She explained that the town is receiving the grant not necessarily because of current drug abuse among teens, but because studies have shown that "the use of marijuana is increasing" among Scituate adolescents, a sign local youth are at risk. She did not specify the rate of increase, but said it is high enough to trigger the specialized grant.

The funds will be distributed this way, McCormick said: $198,000 in the first year, as of July 1; $105,000 in each of the next three years; and $26,000 in the fifth and final year.

Council members closely quizzed McCormick on how her committee, which functions like a substance abuse panel, will use the money.

She indicated a broad, town-wide effort involving just about every aspect of the community will be mounted to promote prevention. "We will be interviewing key people," she said, such as school personnel, town officials, the police, religious and youth leaders.

"We will come up with an action plan to address" the problem, McCormick continued, "and we will need to prove its effects" to outside, independent evaluators.

Councilman John F. Winfield Jr. applauded the effort. A local funeral director with Anderson & Winfield, he said he sees in his line of business "the lasting imact" drugs can have on youth. Parents of young people who have lost their lives often tell him their children's downfall began with marijuana, he said.

The $11-million grant comes from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and went to the state Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, part of the state health department, for distribution to local communities. McCormick did not identify the other 11 communities involved in the prevention effort.

"Up to 12 communities, which have the greatest need for prevention support, will receive funding to implement effective strategies to achieve prevention goals. These communities represent a large percentage of the state's population, and with help from this grant it is anticipated that there will be statewide reductions in the use of these substances," the BHDDH said in an October 2013 newsletter.

McCormick said she would welcome the participation of a Town Council member in the prevention project.