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Healthy KP Substance Use Prevention Coalition Awarded $625,000 Federal Drug-Free Communities Grant

The Healthy KP Substance Use Prevention Coalition has been awarded a $625,000 grant from the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program.

The grant is a five-year grant, during which time Healthy KP will receive $125,000 in funding per year.

The DFC Program provides grants to community coalitions across the country that work to prevent and reduce substance use among youths. The grant aims to provide these coalitions with funds to strengthen relationships with local community partners and implement different strategies and programs that are designed to reduce youth substance use rates.

Healthy KP is one of 107 coalitions across the country who were newly awarded the grant, and one of only seven coalitions to receive the grant in Massachusetts. Approximately $25 million in funds were allocated to support new coalitions. In all, the grant is part of $91.5 million awarded to 733 coalitions nationwide.

Healthy KP was founded in 2018 with the goal of empowering students from Wrentham, Norfolk and Plainville to live a healthy, substance-free life through youth leadership, education, training, policy and support.

A 2018 anonymous student survey, called the MetroWest Health Survey, showed startling data among high school students throughout the region. The responses of King Philip students showed trends that included growing numbers of students who reported using E-cigarettes, tobacco or nicotine products, and marijuana, as well as continued alcohol use among students.

"Healthy KP is incredibly fortunate to have received this grant funding and it would not have been possible without the hard work of the coalition's members and the dedication of Vice Principal Kip Lewis and Director of Wellness Dot Pearl,” KP Superintendent Paul Zinni said. "We would also like to thank Amanda Decker of Bright Solutions and KPRMS School Resource Officer Sgt. Michelle Palladini who have both been an active part of and valuable advisers to the coalition. This funding will help the coalition implement programs and strategies to reduce substance use, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact the coalition will make in our communities in the coming years.”

Healthy KP plans to use its first year of funding to hire a program director who will create and supervise coalition programming. Funds will also go toward the planning of community events and training for coalition members, and will help to provide parents with information and resources to talk to their children about substance use.

Additionally, grant funds will be used to help increase community collaboration through partnerships with other local organizations, as well as increase the coalition's membership base.

Long-term, the grant aims to help the coalition implement evidence-based strategies that can reduce substance use rates among kids and teens in the communities.

"One of our main goals in reducing substance use is to help youth develop the skills to make healthy choices,” said Director Pearl. "The grant will enable us to continue to assess the needs and fabric of the three communities and implement evidence-based practices to support our youth in making these healthy choices."

In its first few years, the coalition has completed or begun a number of initiatives, ing the Sticker Shock Awareness Campaign that sought to curb teen drinking and substance use before King Philip Regional High School’s prom in 2019. The coalition has also aimed to change the perception of substance use as a teen norm through the Social Norms Campaign. The campaign consists of posters featuring current KP student leaders unified against substance use with accurate statistics about the amount of KP students who actually engage in substance use.

“Healthy KP has already completed a number of important and meaningful activities in the community, and these funds will support our continued efforts to help students of all ages in the tri-town area understand the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and drugs,” Vice Principal Lewis said.

Added Healthy KP member Ann Barr, “We are very fortunate that the Healthy KP Coalition was awarded the DFC grant and I am thankful that the coalition can continue working to provide resources, education and services to help our youth live substance-free.”

To be eligible for the grant, coalitions needed to have a steering committee made up of representatives and participants from 12 sectors of the community including: youth; parents; law enforcement; schools; businesses; media; youth-serving organizations; religious and fraternal organizations; civic and volunteer groups; healthcare professionals; state, local, and tribal agencies with expertise in substance abuse; and other organizations involved in reducing substance abuse.

Coalitions also had to demonstrate that their membership base attends regular meetings and that the coalition has completed previous substance use prevention projects or activities.

The coalition is always looking for additional members who are passionate about reducing substance use among youth. Anyone interested in learning more about Healthy KP or becoming a member is encouraged to contact Vice Principal Lewis at [email protected] or Director Pearl at [email protected]

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