CECIL COUNTY — The Cecil County Drug-Free Community Coalition will see an uptick in federal funding through a grant that will help it continue its mission of youth alcohol and drug prevention.

The CCDFCC was awarded $125,000 by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy through the Drug-Free Communities Support Program. The county-wide coalition was one of four initiatives on the Eastern Shore that received part of $500,000 of the federal funds.

“Parents should never have to grieve the loss of a child, but for far too many families, the opioid epidemic has made this nightmare a reality. These federal funds will help Cecil County engage and educate young people to help prevent these tragic losses,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committees.

Van Hollen told the Whig he was glad to support Cecil County’s application, and said he would continue working to provide Maryland with the resources necessary to prevent and treat substance misuse.

“The opioid epidemic has hit every corner of our state and our country. Unfortunately, our children are not immune. These federal funds will help Cecil County give young people the tools they need to prevent substance misuse before it starts, setting them up for a drug-free future,” said Senator Ben Cardin.

“I’m proud to continue to support the innovative ways that our local communities are working to find comprehensive solutions to end this public health crisis.”

U. S. Rep Andy Harris (R-1st District) said that families and local communities “need these resources to help protect children” from opioids, marijuana, alcohol and nicotine.

“These grants help address a critical need in our communities: preventing youth addiction and substance abuse,” he said.

Virgil Boysaw, the CCDFCC Coordinator, explained to the Whig that the funding would assist the program’s efforts drug prevention at the forefront of the county’s long battle against addiction.

“The feeling is one of complete satisfaction that our Drug Free Cecil Coalition team did a good job of fulfilling the ‘spirit’ of the grant,” he said.

“Increasing collaboration is one of our goals and we feel that Cecil County is fortunate in having five more years to enhance and expand the partnership opportunities in order to prevent and reduce substance misuse among our youth. We are fortunate to have our action plans already in place to implement.”

Boysaw said the first order of business with the new funding is to produce this year’s youth created PSAs and billboard messages at NorthBay Adventure for Comcast to broadcast on television and social media.

The funds will help to support the youth organized “prevention clubs” in each of the high schools, he said. Prevention clubs are paramount for youngsters to have a place to plan for national campaigns such as Prevention Week, Red Ribbon Week, National Drug Fact Week and the Second Annual Youth Rally to be held in April 2020.

Boysaw also said that the youth involved will be attending the Communities Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA) National Forum in February. This presents an opportunity for the leaders of tomorrow to visit Capitol Hill to educate their legislators on the positive work that they are involved in.

“Make no mistake about it, the Drug Free Cecil Coalition exists to support a youth-led and adult guided projects,” he said.

“We envision a youth movement that include youth talking to youth about a drug-free life-style through the media, arts and education and encouraging each other to get involved in civic projects. It is one thing to talk about drug prevention; however, the message should include encouraging our youth to become engaged in civic duties for county, state and country!”

Drug Free Cecil Coalition leaders are heavily focused on prevention and educating the community on prevention efforts. With the funding, the group plans to promote an environmental approach to opioid challenges and encourage increasing protective factors and decreasing risk-factors within the community.

The CCDFCC, formed in 2013, has a dozen chartered community leaders along with more volunteers who help to steer prevention efforts in the county. For the past five years, the CCDFCC was funded $125,000 per year through a federal grant. At the time Cecil County was one of five communities in Maryland to receive the funding.

Recently, teenagers from the five public comprehensive high schools and the Cecil County School of Technology have organized rallies and drug takeback events.

The youth coalition has been recognized by national leaders like Harris and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen in the past, as teenagers met both men on Capitol Hill last February. Nine Cecil teens went to the nation’s capital as part of a four-day forum held by CADCA, which advocates for and educates the thousands of coalitions across the country, as well as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which helps administer the Drug-Free Communities grants. Youth leaders will attend again next year with the new funding.

“The first five years, we were focused on our capacity training and needs assessment to establish what the direct needs of the community were,” Boysaw explained. “We’re thankful for this opportunity and we’re looking forward to continuing the work with youth engagement, because our youth is vital to prevention. They need to be involved for real change.”

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