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A local agency dedicated to preventing drug abuse has received a grant that will allow it to continue to operate.
Terry Graney, treasurer and board member of the Shelby County Drug/Alcohol Advisory Council, Inc., said the council has received a $125,000 Drug Free Communities federal grant, renewable for five years, bringing the total grant amount to $625,000.
This funding will allow the non-profit organization to hire some staff members, including a director-without which continued operation would be impossible, Graney said.
"This grant has literally saved the council," she said.
The council was formed in 1987 when the school system received a grant for the Student Assistance Program in that year. Part of that grant requirement was to form a community coalition to educate and raise awareness of alcohol and other drug abuses with community members.
The superintendent at that time, Dr. Leon Mooneyhan, was in the forefront of these prevention efforts in his support to Student Assistance and in recognizing the need to form strong partnerships with community agencies in order to work toward a healthy, drug-free community, Graney said.
In working with both the school system and the community, Graney said it's very important that the agency's "no (drug) use" message reach as many people in the community as possible.
"Prevention is so important," she said. "It's imperative to reach people before they get into drug use."
Graney said that statistics show that drug problems within the local community are continuing to grow, making it more imperative than ever to educate the public on its hazards.
"In two years, from 2004 to 2006, there has been a 117 percent increase in alcohol-related accidents," she said. "Phil Crompton with the Kentucky State Police said that 80 percent of the calls that KSP answers in Shelby County is alcohol or drug-related."
Graney said the traffic accident statistic she mentioned refers to the entire county.
In working with the school system, the agency has attempted to collect data every two years from middle and high school students, asking about their attitudes and beliefs surrounding tobacco, drug and alcohol use.
Data is also collected from other local agencies, including census bureaus, police, sheriff, Administrative Office of the Courts, and KSP.
The latest results of those surveys show:
An increase of 19 percent in population over the last seven years (Census data).
An increase in juvenile delinquency of 47 percent in a 5- year span (AOC data).
Thirty-three percent of the 900 arrests in 2007 were alcohol-related (Shelbyville PD).
Of the 270 drug and alcohol-related arrests, 40 percent were traffic-related alcohol arrests.
Of the 122 non-traffic alcohol arrests, 34 percent were drug-related offenses
The council's latest report also said that gang activity is up, evidenced by several factors, including the growing volume of graffiti in the community, especially on downtown businesses, as well as in school.
The reports said that the following 10 well-known gangs have members in the Shelbyville area: FMA 13; Surenos; Sur 13; 18th Street; Latin Kings; La Nietas; MS 13; Latin Disciples; Brown Pride; and Mexican Pride.
In its mission to identify and educate the community in problem areas, the council uses the following 12 key sectors:
Youth Advisory Board
Business community members
Law enforcement agencies
Civic and volunteer groups
The council's mission can be summed up in two goals: to establish and strengthen collaboration among agencies in the community to prevent and reduce substance abuse among the youth; and to reduce that abuse both in youths and adults by addressing the risk factors that lead to abuse.
Shelby County Magistrate Michael Riggs, who is a member of the council's board, said the grant will allow the council to hire a director, a position that has been lacking for a year and a half.
"We have to have a full-time person to take care of daily activities and to just keep things running," he said. "One of our board members who is also our administrative assistant, Stacey Triplett, has been carrying us so far, but she has a full-time job, as do four of our six board members, and we are just really so grateful for this funding."
Patrick Graney, co-chair of the council, said he is also glad the council will continue, adding that he has fond memories of school activities involving the council.
"I remember Red Ribbon Week, when we would get ribbons for our participation," he said. "The council was very active it the community in those days, and I just want everybody to know that we're back."
The council meets monthly at Jewish Hospital's community center. The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 11 from 11:30 to 1 p.m. The public is invited to attend.