McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

October 29, 2013

Drug-Free Coalition receives $625K grant

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — A local organization dedicated to fighting substance abuse recently received a $625,000 grant to support its efforts.

The Pontotoc County Drug-Free Coalition will receive $125,000 a year over five years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“So that’s a pretty awesome addition to our community,” said Holli Witherington, executive director of the Brandon Whitten Institute for Addiction and Recovery at East Central University.

The institute is the fiscal agent for the grant, which will be used to finance a variety of drug-prevention activities aimed at Pontotoc County’s youth. The activities will include educating parents about alcohol abuse among teenagers, talking to vendors about product placement and checking to see whether retailers are complying with state alcohol laws.

The grant will also fund efforts, such as a youth retreat, to enlist young people in the fight against substance abuse, Witherington said.

“We want to get a youth coalition going so we can better train our youth and they can be the voice in the field for prevention,” she said.

Part of the money will be used to fund a new staffer at the Brandon Whitten Institute, who will coordinate grant-related activities.

The coalition will use several methods to measure its success, such as researching the connection between substance abuse and truancy rates. Other measures will include reviewing district court records to see whether alcohol and drugs play a role in criminal cases.

The grant will help the coalition work with the community on preventing substance abuse, which will ultimately improve public health, Witherington said.

“A healtheir community for our youtn and for all of our citizens,” she said.

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