Funds from a $250,000 state grant to combat adolescent substance abuse are being put to use in the city of Amsterdam.
The grant is one of seven awarded across the state from the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, which set aside more than $1.6 million in annual funding to create adolescent substance abuse disorder “clubhouses” in seven New York regions.
The clubhouse in Amsterdam will be located inside the Creative Connections Arts Center at 303 East Main S., which is owned by the city and is being leased to the non-profit program for $1, according to Amsterdam Mayor Mike Villa.
The grant was awarded in January but funds only recently became available, said Ann Rhodes, executive director of the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Prevention Council, which was awarded and is administering the grant.
According to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office touting the program, the clubhouses will provide adolescents recovering from alcohol or drug addiction a safe and sober environment to develop social skills that promote long-term health and wellness and prevent future abuse.
“A variety of services and activities will be available, including homework help and tutoring, college and job preparation, community service opportunities, sports and fitness activities, group entertainment activities, and peer mentoring,” said the press release.
Rhodes said on Tuesday the program will serve 12- to 17-year-olds in afterschool programs and in the evenings provide support for those 18 and older seeking assistance.
“The mission of our clubhouse is to provide a safe, welcoming and supportive alcohol- and drug-free environment,” said Rhodes.
She said she recently hired an assistant director to help implement programming; work to bring the Creative Connections building up to code has already begun. She hopes to have a grand opening at the clubhouse in the first few weeks of August, but that programming should begin before then.
“I think that we all know Amsterdam doesn’t really have much in the realm of recreational services for young people,” said Rhodes, noting that the local YMCA recently closed its doors.
Rhodes did praise the work of the Wishful Thinking recreation program in the city and said the clubhouse program will be looking to build upon and supplement that work.
“We don’t really have a place for young people to go and get these services,” said Rhodes, referring specifically to alcohol- and substance-abuse assistance.
Rhodes is particularly excited by the existence of a kitchen and dining area in the arts center basement, and is looking forward to possibly implementing cooking classes and a family movie night.
“The possibilities are endless,” said Rhodes. “It really gives us a great opportunity to provide programs for young people and and their families.”
Rhodes noted that the program will be purchasing a van to help program participants with any transportation difficulties they may have.
She said the $250,000 will be provided for the program annually by the state, but does not know for how many years the funding will be in place.
“We’re allowed to do fundraising,” said Rhodes. “But the grant was written with the expectation that this money will be enough for us to do a good job.”
Villa said he looks forward to the clubhouse being a part of the social fabric of the city.
“Obviously there’s a drug problem across this entire region … and the governor has made it a priority to assist vulnerable youth,” said Villa, noting that the governor identified seven regions across the state that are in need. “And we were one of them, so I think it’s a program that hopefully curtails youth that are vulnerable.”
Rhodes said the grant money will be used for things like replacing a defunct elevator and ensuring that the electrical and heating systems inside the building are sound.
Villa said the city recently replaced the arts center roof.
“All in all the building is in good shape,” said Villa. “There’s certain improvements that need to be made.”
Amsterdam 5th Ward Councilman Jim Martuscello, whose district includes the art center, told the Gazette in January that the city will be responsible for general upkeep at the building and will also pay for utilities.
Villa said last week he’s looking forward to working with Rhodes and the clubhouse program.
“It makes for a great collaboration to address the youth of the city that are vulnerable,” he said.
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