Jefferson County, Colo. — Every community wants to raise youth that are healthy, safe and making positive choices, including avoiding substance abuse. Now, with funding from both the national and state government, Jefferson County has more resources to do just that.
Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH), in collaboration with the Child and Youth Leadership Commission (CYLC) Prevention Subcommittee, has been awarded a 2017 Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant for $125,000 from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in cooperation with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grant is potentially renewable for five years for a total amount of $725,000.
JCPH will use the Drug Free Communities grant funding to augment a previously awarded Communities That Care (CTC) grant, consisting of more than $1.3 million in potential funding from the marijuana tax cash fund, managed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. These combined funding streams will be used to implement substance abuse prevention efforts in Jefferson County — following CTC’s unique, evidence-based community change process — focusing on Lakewood, Edgewater and Wheat Ridge.
“Jefferson County Public Health does a tremendous job promoting healthy behaviors in our community,” said U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-07). “And the Communities that Care initiative will ensure they are able to build on these efforts by providing valuable data about youth behaviors and preventing problems before they arise as it relates to substance abuse, violence and depression. I look forward to seeing the results of this process and the positive impact it will have on Jefferson County’s youth population.”
The marijuana tax cash fund is also the source of funding for nine new school health professionals in Jeffco Public Schools, made possible through a School Health Professional Grant Program from the Colorado Department of Education. A key component of the school health professionals’ work is directly related to drug and alcohol prevention and intervention through the acquisition of social emotional skills and skills specific to substance prevention, use and abuse. Jeffco Schools partner with CTC and work closely together to ensure a cohesive and fruitful partnership between staff and students at these schools, the community and CTC participants.
“The collaborative partnership between Jefferson County Public Health, Jeffco Public Schools and the community is very exciting, as we unite to make a significant impact for our youth, specifically related to substance prevention and intervention,” said Micah Munro, student services coordinator with Jeffco Public Schools. “Lakewood, Jefferson and Wheat Ridge High Schools, and the Departments of Student Engagement, Student Services and Healthy Schools have active members on the CTC community board and subcommittees.”
Jefferson County Public Health has begun the CTC process by enlisting key community leaders and stakeholders to decide priorities, evaluate approaches and discuss tactics. So far, the key leaders and the community board have met several times to begin organizing the process and have decided on a vision statement — “Jefferson County is a thriving, healthy and safe community for our youth.”
One of the Key Leaders helping drive the CTC effort is Jefferson County District Attorney Pete Weir.
“What’s important about Communities That Care is that it helps stop youth risk behaviors before they start,” Weir said. “It helps protect our kids from the very beginning — before they have the chance to use a substance, before they encounter peer pressure and long before they ever end up in my courtroom. That’s where we can make the biggest difference.”
The infusion of funding to combat youth substance use in Jefferson County comes at a time when the issues of addiction and substance abuse are at the forefront of the national conversation. That makes now the perfect time to act. Nearly 50 communities across Colorado have received CTC funding and are working on reducing risk factors to protect the youth in their areas.
“While we don’t have data just yet, we know across Colorado, we’re seeing concerning rates of binge drinking, drug use and depression among youth, and we want to make sure we’re addressing these issues in Jefferson County,” said Dr. Mark B. Johnson, Executive Director of Jefferson County Public Health. “Communities That Care allows us to do that in a way that is customized for our community and using approaches that have been proven to be effective in other communities.”
The next big push of the CTC effort will be to complete a deep dive into data about what youth are experiencing in the community, then prioritizing action at the local level. The data will come from a combination of partner organizations, youth interviews, demographic and census data and more. The eventual goal is to create policies, systems and programs — rooted in data — that reach more kids and families, and help more youth grow into productive adults.
“The whole point is to raise young people who are healthy, safe and drug-free,” Johnson said. “With this funding, we have the potential to make a real difference.”
About Jefferson County Public Health
Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is committed to promoting health and preventing injury and disease for the residents of Jefferson County, Colorado. Public health is what we as a society do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. To learn more about JCPH, visit https://jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.