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$625,000 in grants for San Juan Island Prevention Coalition; will help support programs for five years

Financial stability may be tough to achieve in troubled economic times like these.

But it appears the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition will be on solid ground for the remainder of the year, and the next, and the three after that, thanks to a five-year federal grant totaling $625,000.

The Prevention Coalition will receive $125,000 from the federal Drug-Free Communities program in each of the next five years. The program is administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in partnership with the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

The award will cover the salary of the coalition’s coordinator, roughly $48,000 a year, and support the coalition’s programs to reduce and prevent substance abuse among local youth.

“We are pleased and excited to get the new award,” coalition chairman Brad Fincher said.

“It’s nice to be recognized for the work we’ve done in the past, so much so that the federal government realizes we have more good to do in the prevention area.”

The recipient of Drug-Free Communities grants the past four years, the local coalition brings together agencies, individuals and organizations in a common cause. It is one of 575 community coalitions across the nation awarded a share of $60 million in Drug-Free Communities continuation and mentoring program grants.

The Friday Harbor-based coalition, beneficiary of the largest continuation grant available, was also awarded a $35,000 grant to help Lopez Island establish a prevention coalition of its own.

Like its counterparts nationwide, San Juan’s coalition is comprised of business and community leaders, health care professionals, law enforcement, media, non-profits, parents, teachers, and youth. It achieves its goals through a collaborative process that leads to the creation of new events and enhancement of programs with a proven track record.

The coalition operates under the umbrella of the county Department of Health and Community Services.

Coalition coordinator Cynthia Stark-Wickman describes the coalition as “a huge community mobilization effort.”

The coalition helps coordinate such events as the alcohol-free, all-ages New Year’s Eve party at Mullis Community Senior Center, the Grad Night celebration for high school seniors, and the mock DUI drill — entitled “Every 15 Minutes” — on the high school football field.

The coalition is also trying to change attitudes of acceptance or indifference about underage drinking and substance abuse.

Stark-Wickman said the coalition has helped in the past to ensure store clerks are well-versed in procedures that apply to alcohol and tobacco sales, and that it intends to replicate that effort over the next five years for those who work in local bars and restaurants where alcohol is served.

Members of the coalition are also aware there’s an end to Drug-Free Communities funds, Stark-Wickman said. Community coalitions no longer qualify for Drug-Free Communities grants after 10 years and, as is the case with the Orcas Island Prevention Partnership today, are on their own for funding after that.

But for now, the coalition on San Juan would appear to be on firm financial ground.

“It feels pretty good,” Stark-Wickman said. “From year to year, we never really knew whether the federal grants would continue.”

— For more information about the coalition, call Stark-Wickman at 378-9683 or e-mail prevention@centurytel.net

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