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Town hall meeting explains proposed Drug Free Community grant


The Newton County Hometown Health Initiative (HHI) created a subcommittee called Partnership in Prevention (PIP) which proposed submitting an application for a federal CDC Drug Free Community (DFC) grant. That application was submitted last April and the announcement of grants awarded is expected to come in August. To inform the public what the grant would mean to Newton County, a town hall meeting was held Tuesday afternoon, June 25, at the Jasper School Cafeteria.
About 20 people signed the attendance sheet at the meeting that began at 5:30 p.m. and concluded a little over an hour later.
Jeff Dezort, chair of HHI and PIP, explained the the Initiative was established in the county in 2003 as a way for community members to identify problems in the community and to take action to help resolve those problems. Over the past 20 years results of the organization have been many, but most notably: Creation of the Jasper Community Garden, the Jasper Farmer’s Market, recruiting a mobile mammography unit from UAMS to visit the county heath office three times a year and the the Jasper School District's school based health center provided by the Boston Mountain Community Health Clinic.
HHI initially set out to apply for the Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but was halted for two years. After reforming the coalition, the process was started over.
In 2023 HHI applied for and received a COPE grant for $25,000 that was used for training of HHI members about how to apply and what would be needed for the DFC grant.
Last April the application was submitted. If approved, the DFC grant will provide $125,000 a year for 5 years.
A large portion of the grant will be used to pay the salary of a program coordinator. The Jasper School District has agreed to be the fiduciary for the grant. The district would hire the coordinator with input from the 12 core community members of PIP.
The program's focus will be on youth education and prevention. PIP will collect data and document activities for reports once a year to the grant provider. The mission of PIP is to create a program that will educate and mentor students starting in 3rd grade and will perpetually reinforce the prevention and reduction in youth substance misuse in Newton County by serving ages 9 – 18. The coordinator will involve law enforcement and community businesses to reinforce the mission and vision of the organization.
Kyle Evatt MPA, CPS – Grant/Project Coordinator, Regional Prevention Provider for
North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education (NAPHE), assisted in preparing data included in the application. During the meeting he reviewed the Arkansas Prevention Needs Assessment (APNA) survey data collected through schools.
The DFC grant application focuses on opioids, a requirement of the COPE funding, and alcohol as identified on the student surveys.
During the grant years, additional items can be added. Next year vaping and marijuana are projected to be added. Eventually fentanyl could be added.
Evatt emphasized the importance of student participation taking the survey annually in the process.
Comments from the audience suggested students and parents are concerned that the survey is not anonymous.
Reassurance must be given and proved for comfort in taking the survey truthfully and accurately, Evatt said. The coordinator will be tasked with the job of working with the schools to develop strategies for accurate testing and data retrieval. Youth focused peer to peer assurance is important.

Evatt said the public has access to the APNA data online at Pride Surveys. If you want to see the data from surveys you can look online at Pride Surveys:
Arkansas.pridesurveys.com. Area schools are in Region 2.
Also speaking at the meeting was Sherri Hinrichs, NAPHE director, who guided PIP through the application process and helped to write the actual application.
Hinrichs explained the DFC grants are distributed through the White House’s National Drug Control Policy Department and then administered through CDC. This program started in 1977. There are other prevention grants that can also be applied for, such as CARA grants and a Stop program geared towards alcohol.
DFC grants are given for 5 years with the ability to reapply for an additional 5 years and also partners with CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) for annual trainings and access to evidence-based resources.
If a grant isn't. Awarded to PIP this year, it will be notified of exactly what was missed and how to fix it. "We can then reapply next year and should get the award," Hinrichs said. "Once we hear about the award the first step is to recruit and hire a coordinator. Then find a space for the coordinator to work out of.
The school is working hard to find space for the coordinator at the Jasper school, said superintendent Dr./ Candra Brasel.
The coordinator will work in collaboration with the coalition to plan projects for youth, parents, community members, churches and will be responsible for all aspects of communication and reporting. The grant activities will be instilled in every school district within the county. Youth coalitions will be developed for peer-to-peer activities and the education provided to them will embolden youth and provide leadership skills.
Some questions/comments from the audience:
• On the survey could methamphetamine be shortened to meth?
This is handled by Pride Surveys. The coalition can provide input to them.
• On the survey could cigarettes be slash vape? Or could these both be on the survey?
These are in 2 different sections of survey.
• Why are there no 8th or 10th graders on the results?
That depends on how each individual school handles administration of the APNA surveys.