Friday, September 05
GREAT BARRINGTON — A substance abuse prevention program has received a $625,000 federal grant, designed to "push back against youth drug use."

The South Berkshire Youth Coalition will receive $125,000 a year for five years from the Drug Free Communities Support Program, according to a press statement from U.S. Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, D-Mass.

The funds will be used for drug and alcohol prevention programs in South County, according to Kathleen Jackson, SBYC's coordinator.

Jackson said that the funding could be used for parenting classes, guest speaker events, the coalition's continued support for Monument Mountain Regional High School's After Prom party, teen alcohol prevention forums, and the like, but she wanted input from the community before next year's programming was put in place.

"The projects won't be meaningful unless the community believes in them," she said.

The federal funds will be available Oct. 1, she added.

In June, during the height of prom season, the SBYC hosted a teen drinking forum that featured presentations from a local substance abuse counselor and a lawyer. Jackson said the alcohol and drug-free After Prom party, once seen as the alternative event, is now more of a mainstream "community norm."

Since late July, SBYC has had makeshift offices at the Community Health Programs's Nutrition Services on West Street; the coalition was forced to move out of its office at Saint James Episcopal Church when a section of the church wall collapsed and the building was condemned.

The coalition is looking for a permanent space, Jackson said.

Similar grants also were awarded to youth health and substance abuse prevention coalitions in Arlington, Brookline, Danvers, Falmouth, Lynn, Wayland, Dukes County, and Franklin County.

The federal program was created in 1997 as part of the White House Office of National Drug Control and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.

"Drugs threaten our kids and our communities," Kerry said in the press statement. "These education and community-wide prevention programs will save lives."