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Drug-Free Coalition expects to continue after grant runs out Sept. 30

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 June 2019 at 8:36 am

More than 100 people are part of coalition which cites progress in declining teen drug and alcohol use

Photos by Tom Rivers: Pat Crowley, left, is director of the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition. She is joined by Dr. Dan Webb, co-owner of Catalyst Research in Depew, which does surveys of teen substance abuse for Orleans United.

KNOWLESVILLE – A federal grant that has funded a program to help prevent youth substance abuse in Orleans County expires on Sept. 30.

But that shouldn’t be the end of the Orleans United Drug Free Communities Coalition. The coalition is expected to continue but leaders of the organization aren’t sure yet in what form.

The DFC grant funded the coalition’s efforts for 10 years, with the group securing funds in two 5-year cycles.

More than 100 people from agencies, school districts, law enforcement, churches and other community groups have been part of the coalition since it formed more than a decade ago.

Pat Crowley, director of Orleans United, said that valuable collaboration should continue. Some of the staff resources will be picked up by the prevention program at Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

Other coalition partners will be asked to continue programs, such as the free roller-skating at the YMCA over Christmas and spring vacation. The Medina Area Association of Churches has helped with that program.

The coalition met earlier this month to reflect on a decade of progress in reducing teen use of tobacco products, drugs and alcohol.

The grant funded staff, prevention programs, surveys of students on their drug activities and attitudes, and supported other coalition activities.

Pat Crowley, right, recognizes GCASA prevention educators – Diana Fulcomer, left, and Sherri Bensley – for their work in helping to reduce teen substance abuse.

Every two years the coalition has surveyed about 1,500 students in Orleans County. There will be another survey this fall of teens at Holley, Kendall, Lyndonville and Medina school districts. That survey will be paid for by the DFC grant.

The coalition has data on alcohol and tobacco use among students in grades 7 through 12 over 12 years. The surveys show a big drop in substance abuse, although students’ perceptions about risk are down, especially with marijuana use.

Some highlights form the survey in 2017 include:

• Alcohol use among students dropped from 28.1 percent in 2005 to 17.5 in 2017, a 37.8 percent decrease. (The survey asked if teens had used alcohol in the previous 30 days.)

• Tobacco use with cigarettes went down from 13.6 percent of students in 2005 to 5.4 percent in 2017, a 60.3 percent drop.

• Students since 2015 have also been asked about e-cigarettes. Orleans United added e-cigarettes after vape shops appeared in many communities selling flavors of products like they are selling candy. In 2015, 14.7 percent of students said they used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. The survey in 2017 showed 14.0 percent of students used an e-cigarette recently.

• Marijuana use was at 10.4 percent in 2017, which is down from 12.1 percent in 2005. The rate hasn’t changed much in Orleans in the 12 years. Webb said the national rate is 14.5 percent, and other communities have seen a big increase in marijuana use among students.

• Orleans United started asking students about non-prescribed medications in 2013 and 2.7 percent said then they had taken non-prescribed prescriptions in the previous 30 days. That percent increased to 3.4 percent in 2015, and then dropped to 1.7 percent with the latest survey.

The coalition used DFC funds for billboards and other advertisements to warn about the dangers of substance abuse. Crowley said there won’t be funds for the large signs in the future.

She thanked the many coalition partners for their commitment to reducing substance abuse in the community. She said the coalition started with 10 active members and grew to 131.

The coalition’s cross section from the community and multi-year commitment is unusual, said Dr. Dan Webb, co-owner of Catalyst Research in Depew. His firm has done surveys every two years of local teens and their substance abuse. He credited Crowley for building a strong community network, and for securing the funds for the programs for over a decade.

“It’s not easy managing grants,” Webb said on June during a coalition meeting at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds. “Pat has kept the money flowing for the county for 10 years.”

Pat Crowley recognizes DFC Coalition supporters including from left: Tom Robinson, Jail Superintendent Scott Wilson, Paul Fulcomer, Jan Albanese of ACT – Helping Youth ACT Responsibly, and Sue Metzo, of the Medina Area Association of Churches.

The coalition is working on the upcoming National Night Out at Bullard Park in Albion. Many local agencies and law enforcement departments will meet the public and run activities from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 6. About 1,000 people attended the event last year.

Crowley also said the coalition recently completed project Sticker Shock, where stickers were put on alcohol containers, warning stores not to sell the beverages to people under age 21.

The coalition also has been part of the National Prescription Take-Back Event, where 7,708 pounds of unused prescription medications have been dropped off in Orleans County since 2012.

Scott Wilson, superintendent of the Orleans County Jail, helps run the drug take-back program, which includes drop-off sites at the Orleans County Public Safety Building and the Holley and Medina fire departments.

The take-back event on April 27 yielded over 676 pounds of unused medication and sharps. The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office will continue to support future collection events with the purpose of safely disposing unused medications and to reduce the potential for criminal diversion.

The Drug Free Communities Coalition provides advertising and volunteers at each collection site.

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