Massachusetts Drug Abuse Prevention Programs Receive New Grant Funding
- Author: Jessica Williams
- Posted: 2023-01-23
As students in Massachusetts K-12 public schools continue learning on a mostly remote or hybrid basis, children are at an increased risk of substance abuse. For all Americans, the rates of substance abuse have increased across all categories since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the rates of alcohol, prescription drug and illegal drug abuse. New grant funds in the amount of $3.4 million have been distributed by the state of Massachusetts to schools for programs to identify, prevent and treat drug abuse.
Where the Funds Were Sent
Drug abuse prevention programs in Central and Western Massachusetts received the grant funds. The funds are for middle school students who are at risk of emotional challenges, behavioral problems and substance use. The fund will be used to pay for services provided by community behavioral health organizations. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic necessitates that the services will be provided online in a remote environment, such as through a secure video or a classroom Zoom meeting.
Purpose of the Grants
The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health explained on November 6 that this new grant will fund remote behavioral health services through community organizations. High-risk children in grades 5 to 8 in the public school system can receive the services. The students must be identified by a teacher or counselor as at high risk of substance use, or they must have emotional or conduct problems documented in their school records.
Entities Receiving the Grant Funds
Several programs have received some of the grant funds. They include the the Community Healthlink in Leominster, LUK Inc. in Fitchburg, the Center for Human Development in West Springfield and The Brien Center in Pittsfield. These are all non-profit, community-based organizations.
What the Grant Recipients Have to Say
The leaders of the community organizations that received the money said that because of the disruptions to in-person learning, these grant awards will provide essential and timely help for students. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the behavioral, social and emotional help that middle school and other students would normally receive. With the grant funds, the organizations will be able to provide better services to students and their families. The organizations will also be able to collaborate with schools and offer rapid support to students who are in a crisis situation.
How the Grant Recipients Were Selected
The agencies that received the money were chosen based on their ability to provide access to the services in schools and in the community. They were required to have a written plan for the delivery of remote services. For the foreseeable future, the services will be provided on a remote or teleheath type of basis. The uncertainty of when schools might reopen and how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out mean that the organizations need to be able to immediately deliver their services through a remote method.
How the Grant Funds Will Be Distributed
The grants will be distributed over a four-year period. Each of the programs will get $122,816 this year and $184,224 for each of the following three years. The award comes from the Massachusetts Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's State Opioid Response grant. The Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, said that these targeted substance abuse interventions through school systems are critically important during these challenging times. The unprecedented pandemic means that a lot of people are struggling. Many of them, including students, are turning to substances as a mechanism of coping with all the anxiety and stress.
Implementation of the Substance Abuse Intervention Programs
The four agencies that received grant funds this cycle joined 10 others that got grants last year. Those 10 agencies have already been delivering services through the model in 18 schools in Massachusetts. The Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, Karyn Polito, said that it is important for the state to offer services and treatment to students who are at risk of substance abuse. Early interventions reduce the risk of a person developing a substance or opioid use disorder.
The grants will also be used to educate families about the signs of substance abuse in middle school students. Many of these signs overlap with pandemic-related stress and the usual teenage behavioral changes. It's important for parents and guardians to recognize the differences between substance abuse symptoms and other behavioral changes in children.