Published in the September 18, 2015 edition.

WAKEFIELD – Congressman Seth Moulton, the Salem Democrat, announced new federal funding to prevent and reduce substance abuse among young people in northeast Massachusetts. In total, the Office of National Drug Control Policy released $725,000 in Drug Free Communities funding to five local, community-based organizations, including the Healthy Peabody Collaborative, the Healthy Gloucester Collaborative, the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse, DanversCares and the Wakefield Unified Prevention Coalition.

“We cannot let alcohol and drugs snuff out the bright futures of young people in Massachusetts,” said Moulton. “From Reading to Gloucester, these investments will help our local leaders continue their efforts to prevent substance use by young people and help the next generation lead happier, healthier and more productive lives. Congratulations to each of the organizations for securing these competitive grants.”

The Wakefield Unified Prevention Coalition has used Drug Free Communities funding since 2013 to implement evidence-based strategies to reduce alcohol, tobacco and other drug use among Wakefield residents, especially youth.

Coalition Director Catherine Dhingra said the Coalition will soon expand access to mental health services for young people in Wakefield.

“Our data demonstrated many youth were suffering from anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts but were not being seen by a school counselor or a clinician,” said Dhingra. “We have worked hard to improve the school’s capacity to serve our youth’s mental health needs and bring in outside resources. A significant amount of youth who develop substance use disorders have co-existing mental health conditions.

Sara Grinnell, the executive director of the Healthy Peabody Collaborative highlighted the important role prevention plays in combatting substance use by young people.

“We are not powerless against the challenge of drug use among young people in Peabody. Research shows that prevention is the most effective tool we have to reduce the terrible consequences associated with drug use among young people. This funding will allow the Healthy Peabody Collaborative to continue to support the development of stronger, healthier youth and to adapt social norms to promote healthy decision making while encouraging the involvement of all sectors of the community.”

DanversCARES has seen a significant drop in alcohol use, high-risk drinking and tobacco use among high-school students as a result of Drug Free Community funding. “These are important long-term outcomes attributed to the vibrant and caring community partnerships that Drug Free Communities funding allows us to maintain,” said Peg Sallade, project director of DanversCARES. “These outcomes are a collective effort of many Danvers organizations contributing to healthy policies, programs and activities for youth.”

Erica McNamara, director of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse (RCASA), called the Drug Free Communities program a “transformative experience for our community.” With the help of the federal funding, RCASA launched the first local prescription drug collection program in Reading and helped pass sweeping town liquor polices. According to the Reading Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Reading has seen percentage declines in underage drinking, tobacco use and related behaviors. McNamara said RCASA would use this year’s funding to continue combating underage drinking and opioid abuse prevention.

For more information about Congressman Seth Moulton visit his website or find the Congressman on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.