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Family & Children’s Place receives $625,000 grant for youth-led program to address substance abuse prevention & conflict resolution

March 10, 2021

Grant will target zip codes 40202 & 40203; areas experiencing record high violence and substance abuse

(LOUISVILLE, Ky. –)  Middle and elementary students residing in two of Louisville’s most economically distressed zip codes will soon have access to a program designed to improve educational outcomes through the prevention of drug abuse thanks to a grant from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and The Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  The grant and program were developed by the Central Louisville Coalition (CLC)—a group comprised of representatives from Jefferson County Public Schools, non-profits, governmental agencies, faith-based institutions, and local businesses—and supported by U.S. Representative John Yarmuth.  The grant comes as thousands of Jefferson County Public school students prepare to return to in-person instruction.

“I am thrilled to see this important funding coming to Louisville to combat youth substance abuse,” Yarmuth said. “This youth-led initiative puts power directly in students’ hands to create a better understanding of the risks associated with drug use and the negative impacts it can have on their health and potential for future success. I’m proud to help be a part of this comprehensive approach, and I thank Family & Children’s Place, JCPS, and everyone else involved in securing this investment in our community. I have tremendous faith in this new generation to lead by example in protecting our health, environment, and shared future.”

Through this initiative and utilizing the research-based Youth-led Participatory Action Research model, youth working in tandem with CLC will develop an out-of-school time curriculum for students at Meyzeek Middle School and Engelhard Elementary that focuses on the dangers that come with using marijuana and nicotine.   The curriculum will also include exercises and programming that teach peaceful conflict resolution.  These efforts will be enhanced through weekly peer-supported sessions and are expected to serve students from Meyzeek Middle School and Engelhard Elementary.

According to Pam Darnall, president and CEO for Family & Children’s Place, “Through this initiative, we will provide participants with the necessary tools needed to address trauma, which is far too common in certain areas of our community.”

“Unfortunately, we know that families living in the Russell, Shelby, and Smoketown neighborhoods are exposed to a high level of drug use, violence, and other variables that can lead to long-term trauma that impacts other outcomes,” said Darnall.  “This program is focused on prevention and equipping students with strategies that not only lead to success but, long-term will lead to improved health metrics and lower instances of violence in the area.”

The grant provides $625,000 over a five-year period.  During the grant period, the CLC expects to serve almost 900 students or 180 annually from the two schools. A key feature of the grant includes a robust evaluation plan that will track and measure key metrics such as past 30-day usage rates and attitudes towards substance use to measure the program’s overall success and effectiveness.

Enrollment for the program is expected to begin in August—just in time for the start of the 2021-22 school year.  Dr. Ronda George, principal of Meyzeek Middle School—which was house this after-school initiative—believes that focusing on the elementary and middle school-aged children who may lack the developmental skills needed to process and express the trauma brought on by an on-going global pandemic will be important coming off the 2020-21 school year.

“Meyzeek Middle School is honored to support the CDC’s Drug-Free Communities Grant by facilitating a more focused education on substance use and mental health through our CLASP program,” said George.  “Our collaborative work will help to increase awareness and empower the citizens of the 40202 and 40203 communities.”

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio agrees and believes that reversing some of the damaging trends that could result from kids being confined to online learning and challenging home environments for more than a year will require more partnerships that match some of the resources available within the community to the needs of students located throughout the district.

“As we return to in-person classes, JCPS will be focusing on the trauma our students have experienced due to the pandemic, disrupted learning, and violence in their neighborhoods,” Pollio said. “This grant and program will provide more tools to improve the mental health of our students who need these supports.”

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About Family & Children’s Place

Family & Children’s Place (F&CP) protects Kentuckiana children, families, and communities from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and helps move them from hurting to healing.  FCP serve more than 3,500 children and families annually through trauma-informed and impact-evident services.  For more information about Family & Children’s Place, visit www.famchildplace.org or call 502-893-3900.