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Fighting for a drug free community
Rockdale Coalition to apply for federal grant to fight drug, alcohol abuse
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The Rockdale Coalition for Family and Children Services was recently named as the only agency in Georgia awarded a $1,000 grant to help Rockdale become a federally designated drug-free community. 

The grant will help Rockdale apply next year for a larger, five-year grant of $125,000 per year. If Rockdale were selected for the grant, with an option to renew, that could potentially mean up to $1 million.

The grant’s aim is substance abuse prevention through coalition building. “The main crux is building a coalition of community members from different sectors,” said Rockdale Coalition Executive Director Michael Hutcheson. 

To this end, Hutcheson assembled a steering committee with Conyers PD crime and intelligence analyst Kim Lucas, Vice-Chair of Rockdale County Board of Education and business owner Jean Yontz, Prevent Child Abuse’s Diane Howington, Rockdale Coalition secretary and treasurer Pastor Tim Hogg of Our Father’s House, Ceek To Fulfill’s Evelyn Cooksey, Susan Paul Smith, Support Team for All Rockdale Students (STARS) grant project manager, and a representative from The News.

Mentoring RCFCS through the process is Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services and Gwinnett United in Drug Education (GUIDE), which is applying for their second five-year grant. 

The group identified factors contributing to substance abuse among Rockdale’s youth population - the economy, latch-key kid syndrome, easy access to substances and the county’s proximity to both DeKalb County and rural areas. Other outlying factors discussed were homelessness and the elderly abusing prescription drugs. 

 “When people are homeless and hungry that’s a condition putting them at risk for substance abuse,” said GCHHS’s Ellen Gerstein. The group recognized Rockdale County Public Schools figures pointing to over 200 homeless students.

Rockdale’s accomplishments were acknowledged as part of a framework exercise identifying systems changes already achieved. Mercy Heart Clinic, Phoenix Pass and Family Promise were all heralded as examples.

A portion of the $1,000 grant will be used to send four students and an advisor this summer to Georgia’s Teen Institute, a conference focused on substance abuse prevention measure. 

If awarded the larger multi-year grant, Hutcheson plans to use it towards continuing STARS Coalition projects, “which has much of the same intent and focus as the Drug Free Communities grant.” STARS already has representatives from the required twelve community sectors. “We will be increasing focus to more community-wide environmental strategies increasing public awareness, with the ultimate goal of reducing drug use among our youth,” he said. 

The federal DFC grant submission deadline is in March of 2013. If Rockdale secures the grant, funds would be received around October of 2013.