Ravalli County's Drug Free Communities program will continue next year, thanks to substantial new grant funding from the federal government.
Manager Charmell Owens was notified on Wednesday that the program will receive $115,000 next year from the White House National Drug Control Policy. The funding can be extended for several years.
"It is so exciting to actually be moving in the right direction," Owens said. "This will allow us to keep moving on and doing what we have been doing."
Owens helps facilitate several programs aimed at teenagers and younger, including efforts to combat prescription drug abuse, "shoulder tapping" -- where teens ask adults to buy them alcohol -- alcohol abuse, and the eighth-grade Transitions program.
In addition to supporting various programs, the funds pay for Owens' salary and the salary of two additional part-time employees.
Ravalli was one of just seven Montana counties to win funding, according to a press release from the National Drug Control Policy. Nationwide, $22 million is going to 169 communities and 16 monitoring programs.
"Data show that communities receiving (this) funding have seen significant reductions in the past 30-day use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana among middle- and high-school students," said the program's director, Gil Kerlikowske.
About one in five applicants received money for the program, with successful programs displaying a history of work, representation from various populations in the community, and a long-term plan to reduce youth substance use.
Owens notes the program is especially needed locally, as Ravalli County consistently ranks high for teenage alcohol and drug abuse, and has rising rates of prescription drug abuse.
"These high rates of abuse are keeping Montana in the forefront of what is going on across the country," Owens said. "The fact that we received this money shows we have a strong coalition in Ravalli County and a tight network built around substance abuse prevention."
For more information on the program, reach Owens at 961-9013.
Reach reporter Jeff Schmerker at 363-3300 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.