U.S Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-Springfield), in collaboration with the White House Office National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), recently announced a $125,000 grant to Gándara Center’s Stop Access Springfield Coalition. The award was one of 150 nationwide grants for ONDCP’s Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program.

Pictured above at Congressman Neal’s Springfield office after a November 5 meeting about the grant are (L-R) Anthony Jennings, an outreach specialist for the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office and Chair of the Stop Access Springfield Coalition; Sharon Hall-Smith, director of prevention and community services at Gándara Center; Congressman Neal; Stop Access Springfield Coalition Coordinator Malikah Jeffries; and Gándara Center Marketing and Development Director Jade Rivera-McFarlin.

Stop Access Springfield works to reduce youth substance use by creating positive vital communities and implementing citywide strategies that highlight substance use prevention and move it to a priority status in Springfield. The coalition focuses on collection data around youth risk and protective factors including youth alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco use; community capacity building; public health planning to use environmental policy changes to reduce and prevent youth substance use; and implementation of these strategies. The coalition’s Youth Advisory Board is actively involved in providing direction to the coalition.

The coalition is coordinated by Gándara Center and funded by a grant from the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The federal DFC Program provides grants to community coalitions to strengthen the infrastructure among local partners to create and sustain a reduction in local youth substance use. Recognizing that local problems need local solutions, DFC-funded coalitions engage multiple sectors of the community and employ a variety of environmental strategies to address local substance use problems.

The grant is one of five totaling $625,000 to five organizations in western Massachusetts  Also receiving awards in the First Congressional District of Massachusetts are Easthampton Healthy Youth Coalition, Hampden-Wilbraham Partners for Youth, West Springfield CARE Coalition, and Longmeadow Public Schools.

“Our goal is to make every community a safe and drug-free place for our youth,” said Congressman Neal. “Prevention is a powerful tool to counteract drug use in our community, and these coalitions will use this funding to help youth in West Springfield, Longmeadow, Springfield, Hampden, Wilbraham, and Easthampton make healthy choices about substance use.”

DFC-Funded coalitions are composed of community leaders, parents, youth, teachers, religious and fraternal organizations, healthcare and business professionals, law enforcement, and media. By involving the community in a solution-oriented approach, DFC also helps those youth at risk for substance use recognize that the majority of our Nation’s youth choose not to use drugs. The coalitions continue to make progress toward achieving the goal of preventing and reducing youth substance use. In June, ONDCP released the 2018 Executive Summary and End-of-Year Report for its DFC grant recipients, which continue to yield consistently reduced youth substances use rates.

ONDCP Director Jim Carroll said that in order to create safe and healthy places, “we must break through to our children now and educate them about the dangers of substance use. The Drug-Free Communities, administered by our office across the United States, are proven prevention programs tailored to do just that by meeting the local prevention needs in each community. The Trump Administration will continue expanding the number of community-based coalitions dedicated to the critical mission of stopping substance use among our youth before it starts.”

Pictured below are Congressman Neal and Stop Access Springfield Coalition Coordinator Malikah Jeffries.

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