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Sunnyside coalition receives $625,000 grant to fight youth drug use

Sunnyside United/Unidos is the recipient of a $625,000 grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy as part of $19.8 million in new Drug-Free Communities support program grants across the country.

The program provides grants of up to $625,000 over five years to community coalitions that facilitate citizen participation in local drug prevention efforts.

Sunnyside United/Unidos will use the money in an effort to address the city’s problems with drug use and abuse among its youth. Part of the funding will go toward a youth leadership program and part to an effort to educate the community.

The leadership program is designed to give children the tools they need to resist drug use and abuse. It will tie in with the national “Above the Influence” campaign.

“The leadership program will be youth-led and take youth ideas,” said Cathy Kelley, Sunnyside United/Unidos coalition coordinator. “We want to get the stats out in a positive manner. We want to point out that the majority do not use drugs.”

The community education piece has the goal of chang-ing the culture that allows drug use and abuse to happen. The efforts will include educating adults on the laws regarding drug use.

It will also include larger campaigns, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s “Talk. They Hear You” campaign for young adults and the “Start Talking Before They Start Drinking” campaign aimed at parents of younger children.

“We are not powerless against the challenge of drug use among young people here in Sunnyside,” said Kelley. “Research shows that prevention is the most effective tool we have to reduce the terrible consequences associated with drug use among young people.

“This new funding will help Sunnyside United/Unidos to place more young people on the path toward success and enable them to live healthier and safer lives.”

The awards announced earlier this week are in addition to $59.4 million in continuation grants simultaneously released to 473 currently funded coalitions and four mentoring continuation coalitions.

“For too many young people, the future is clouded by drug use, which inhibits their ability to remain healthy and safe and to achieve their full potential,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“We congratulate this coalition on its work to raise a generation of young people equipped to remain drug free and ready to meet the challenges and successfully compete in the 21st century.”

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