Clark County group awarded grant to tackle substance abuse: ‘We have a lot ahead of us’

A new Clark County coalition on substance abuse will focus on reducing abuse of vaping products and alcohol. FILE PHOTO
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A new Clark County coalition on substance abuse will focus on reducing abuse of vaping products and alcohol. FILE PHOTO

The Clark County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (CCSAPC) has been awarded a state grant that will help raise awareness, build partnerships and create community solutions to reduce substance abuse in the Springfield community over the next five years.

The CCSAPC is one of just seven new Ohio coalitions to earn the Federal Drug-Free Communities Grant this year. The grant is worth $125,000 a year for five years and is renewable after that period.

The CCSAPC’s first-year focus will be in a building capacity, reaching out to various community sectors such as parents, youths, health care pros, teachers, law enforcement, business leaders, religious leaders and more.

“We have a lot ahead of us,” said Carey McKee, prevention specialist at McKinley Hall and DFC project coordinator, who is taking early leadership of the coalition. “Part of this is letting the community know we have experts at our table.”

Seven coalition members attended a national leadership forum on how to use the various sectors to mobilize change. CCSAPC has more than 20 members so far.

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While substance abuse is the broad definition, McKee said a more narrow focus to begin with will be on vaping and alcohol. A particular group being targeted is students, especially reducing risky behavior for teens.

A 2019 Clark County Combined Health District study found 52 percent of Clark County students by age 18 had tried alcohol, and another found 48.8 percent used electronic devices such as vaping and e-cigarettes. This survey is done every two years.

“The emphasis will be on the early onset of substance use and concentrating on alcohol and tobacco products. Building a youth coalition for the county is a goal,” said McKee. “There is a ripple effect of substance misuse, legal costs, community costs with services to provide to parents. Just so many costs involved.”

Carey McKee, left, is helping lead the Clark County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, an organization aimed at raising awareness and reducing substance abuse in the community. Wendy Doolittle, CEO of McKinley Hall, right, is one of several coalition members lending their expertise to the group. Courtesy photo
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Carey McKee, left, is helping lead the Clark County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, an organization aimed at raising awareness and reducing substance abuse in the community. Wendy Doolittle, CEO of McKinley Hall, right, is one of several coalition members lending their expertise to the group. Courtesy photo

For the first project, local youth service group Bringing Awareness to Students (BATS) made up of Clark County high school students and led by WellSpring prevention educator Beth Dixon, is working on a series of anti-vaping ads that will be popping up in Springfield in May. A goal is to involve all county high schools in the effort.

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McKee recognized members of the community and organizations for driving the need for such a coalition and for getting it to this point, including Wendy Doolittle, McKinley Hall CEO, who saw prevention as a community need, having worked in the treatment field and observing without prevention, treatment also wouldn’t be successful.

“We will have strong input from a lot of community agencies with funding on evidence-based things we can implement in Clark County,” she said. “If we continue to strengthen collaboration among the key sectors and stakeholders of our community to reduce alcohol, tobacco and substance use among our youth, then over time we will reduce substance abuse among adults.”

Anyone interested in getting involved in coalition can contact McKee at cmkee@mckinleyhall.org.