Fighting youth substance abuse in Niskayuna will be the focus of a new $625,000 federal grant awarded this week to the Niskayuna Community Action Program.
The grant, which is to come in the form of an annual $125,000 award over the next five years, will focus on youth alcohol, marijuana and prescription drug abuse. The goal is to try to change community attitudes toward those substances within the boundaries of the Niskayuna Central School District, program officials said.
N-CAP’s Margaret Brennan said suburban communities such as Niskayuna are not exempt from substance abuse problems.
Alcohol use and abuse, she said, is across the board, as well as marijuana and prescription drug abuse.
“We need to address it and not pretend that it doesn’t happen,” Brennan said.
She said alcohol abuse came to the forefront two years ago with students drinking on school property. Eight Niskayuna students were found to be drunk at a football game, school officials said.
The grant is through the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Drug Free Communities Support Program. It can be renewed after the first five years.
The grant itself is one of the largest N-CAP has received, said Denise Leader, president of the organization. It also follows the organization’s constant goal: to help youth in the community.
“It’s a great opportunity for N-CAP and it certainly dovetails with all the work we’ve been doing,” she said.
The areas of focus also come from a five-year-old survey of Niskayuna students in which alcohol, marijuana and prescription drug abuse all showed up.
One of the first orders of business, Brennan said, will be conducting an updated survey of students. N-CAP hopes to perform that survey in the coming months and must complete it by end of the school year. The group will conduct the survey two years later and two years after that.
The grant will fund one full-time coordinator position and small stipends for two people coordinating a Youth to Youth program at the middle schools.
Additionally, N-CAP is to use the grant to provide parent and law-enforcement training for prevention strategies and to support prevention programs including the local youth court and the Youth to Youth program.
Education programs for parents will also be supported, along with increased enforcement.
And N-CAP will be working with the school district to achieve those goals, officials said.
“It can be extremely important,” Brennan said. “If everybody gets on board, and we follow through and do what we say we’re going to do, we will see change.”