The Blount County Community Health Initiative’s Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team (SAPAT), under the fiscal agent of Blount Memorial Hospital, has been awarded a five-year Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program grant by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in cooperation with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The grant provides $125,000 per year for five years, and is the second DFC grant awarded to the coalition with a total of $1,250,000 of funding between 2010 and 2020. Over the past five years, the DFC grant aided in funding multiple SAPAT initiatives including:
- The “Take A Stance” initiative to prevent underage drug and alcohol abuse in Blount County. As part of this initiative, nearly 3,000 high school kids in Alcoa, Blount County and Maryville sign a pledge to be drug- and alcohol-free each year.
- The “Cash For Cooks” program, which works in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies to reduce meth abuse in our community.
- Drug Take-Back Day events that help keep unwanted, unused or expired medications off our streets and out of the wrong hands. Through this program, 2,666 pounds of medications have been properly disposed of over the past year.
- The “Text A Tip” program, which allows local school students the ability to report suspicious activity to authorities anonymously.
The next five years of funding will include some of the same initiatives, with a focus on prescription drug abuse and underage drinking prevention in 2015-2016. DFC helps SAPAT enhance enforcement practices, provide support for community partners who work to address substance abuse prevention, offer incentives for students who pledge to remain drug- and alcohol-free, and provide education and training for both the community and SAPAT partners.
“The Blount County Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team is thrilled to be the recipient of this highly competitive grant,” said Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach project manager Jessica Stith Belitz. “This grant allows us the opportunity to continue many of the great programs and activities we have in place to reduce youth substance abuse, as well as build new initiatives to address emerging issues related to substance abuse.”
“We know that evidence-based prevention efforts are the most effective way to reduce youth substance use and to support the roughly 90 percent of American youth who do not use drugs,” said Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “By bringing together schools, businesses, law enforcement, parent groups, and other members of the community, DFC-funded community coalitions are helping to protect youth from the devastating consequences of non-medical prescription drug use, heroin and other substance use.”
Belitz added, “The work completed through this grant funding would not be possible without the help of SAPAT volunteers, local law enforcement and school staff, Blount Memorial Hospital, Blount County District Attorney General’s Office, Sen. Doug Overbey, Congressman John Duncan Jr. and numerous other community partners.”