Frenchtown Earns Grant to Prevent Substance Abuse - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Frenchtown Earns Grant to Prevent Substance Abuse

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FRENCHTOWN -

The community of Frenchtown earned a national, $123,461 yearly grant for the next five years to help prevent youth substance abuse.

Frenchtown High School officials said they began a community coalition back in 2008, when a survey revealed a growing number of middle and high schoolers were abusing drugs and alcohol.

Now, they said the grant money will help strengthen that coalition's mission.

"We have an issue with young people drinking and smoking marijuana," said Frenchtown Community Coalition Coordinator, Gypsy Ray.

Ray said a 2012 survey among Montana youth shows 20% of Frenchtown 8th graders, and 57% of 12th graders reported abusing drugs or alcohol.

"Between 8th grade and senior year, our youth are using more and more, and so, that's really what qualified us for the grant," Ray said.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy awarded the Drug Free Communities grant to 147 community coalitions across the country -- each made up of school officials, parents, students and other community leaders.

Ray said one of the big reasons Frenchtown teens choose to drink or smoke is the overall lack of after school activities in their hometown.

She explained, "They need to drive to Missoula to go to the movie theater, and the bowling alley and things like that."

But now, Ray said the grant will increase funds for the school district's after school program, which offers intramural sports, outdoor cinema, and pizza parties.

"Just by having the face time with the kids, we're establishing a relationship with them," said Youth Activities Coordinator Eric Belker.

Belker said since the coalition started the program in '08, he's seen more and more students choose healthy activities over substance abuse.

"So, that's been a very rewarding experience for everybody that's been involved," Belker said.

Ray said the grant money will also fund a licensed addictions counselor position at the school, and her coordinator position.

"But, to know that our community has five years to really make a change both in our community norms and to help the kids that are living and going to school here right now," Ray said.

To learn more about the Drug Free Communities Support Program, click here.

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