Jackson Cit Pat: Drug prevention coalition receives $125,000 grant to combat opioid epidemic
JACKSON, MI - A Jackson County program that helps kids help themselves in avoiding drug abuse and addiction recently received a sizable federal grant.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, announced Thursday, Sept. 21, the Jackson County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition is one of four anti-drug organizations receiving a $125,000 Drug-Free Communities grant.
"The opioid crisis is tearing apart families in Michigan, and preventing drug use early on will help young people make healthy choices and lead to safer communities," Walberg said in a written statement.
The Jackson County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, Monroe County Substance Abuse Coalition, SRSLY Chelsea and SRSLY Dexter each received the $125,000 grant, totaling $500,000 in funding to combat youth substance abuse.
"These organizations are already doing critical work to educate the next generation about the dangers of drug abuse, and I'm pleased to see their positive results recognized and supported," Walberg said in the statement.
In Jackson, the grant supports the coalition's "Most Teens Don't" program, a student-run middle school program where children teach each other that drug abuse is not a social norm, said Most Teens Don't Coordinator Emma Sigman.
"Many kids fall into the idea of 'everyone is doing it' when they start abusing drugs, but the data has consistently shown that is not the case," Sigman said.
Every year, students throughout the state in seventh, ninth and 11th grades take an anonymous survey asking them about drug use and perceptions, said Jackson County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition Coordinator Sarah Allison.
Jackson County schools are unique compared to other school districts as Jackson is the only county where every student who was eligible to take the anonymous survey last year did so, making Jackson's results more reflective than others, Allison said.
"The (Jackson County Intermediate School Disrrict) has been very helpful in supporting the survey and expressing the importance of it in every district helping us get the best data possible," Allison said.
In previous years, mostly alcohol and marijuana use have been reported by the teens taking the survey, but lately there has been a growing rise in prescription pain killers being used by teens, Sigman said.
"We are still working to explain to kids and their parents that there really isn't difference between prescription opioids and heroin," Sigman said. "Chemically they are the same.
Drug abuse was the No. 1 killer of people in their 30s in Jackson County last year, taking more lives than suicides, homicides and vehicular crashes combined, according to a Citizen Patriot/MLive.com analysis of the county's 1,713 death certificates, as well as nearly 100 police and autopsy reports.
Overall, drug abuse accounted for nearly 3 percent of all deaths in the county in 2016.
"We're losing more than 60,000 people per year to drug overdose, but if we can stop young people from starting to use drugs in the first place, we can save lives," Richard Baum, acting director of National Drug Control Policy, said in a written statement.
This is the eighth year Jackson County has received the grant.
This article originally appeared in the September 21 edition of the Jackson Citizen Patriot.