By Shari L. Johnson

Three years ago, through the help of community people and agencies in Calhoun County concerned with substance abuse issues, I applied for what is now affectionately referred to as SPF-SIG (pronounced spif sig).

The acronym stands for Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant.

The first year of the grant was for planning the projects of the 53 of 55 counties that received funding.

The second year, 12 counties received implementation grants and 5 others received another year of planning.

Calhoun County received the additional year of planning.

Having proven the need and the strategies to move forward, Calhoun County began implementation on October 1, 2007.

On November 15th, 2007 I became a full time project director for Calhoun's prevention program with a primary, but not entire focus, on youth.

Wisdom for the War from the planning years

Having been involved with Calhoun Magistrate Court for 14 years, I was more than a little aware of the issues our county faces with substance abuse.

Having two daughters that in recent years graduated our school system, I knew that we had issues there as well.

But not until I began looking at data, speaking with people of all ages, and making community assessments of needs did I realize the extent of our problem, and the lack of resources to handle them.

West Virginia's substance abuse indicator profiles revised in October, 2006 revealed a very serious problem in Calhoun County.

The past few months have been spent getting the office set-up and established in Grantsville. It is located in the old jail building.

I'm at the Calhoun Middle High School two evenings a week for after school programs using the Pride Youth Programs and Too Good for Drugs (TGFD) curriculum.

I hope to be in the elementary schools using the TGFD curriculum.

I'll accept an invitation from churches ready to arm themselves for the battle to protect their community.

In February, the Youth Leadership Institute, an agency from California, will be running a two day seminar on "Communities Mobilizing for a Change on Alcohol" made possible by SPF-SIG funding.

This program will offer the opportunity to learn about evidence based environmental prevention and community organizing strategies and incorporate them into Calhoun County.

The two day event (including CEU's) will be free, but space will be limited.

March 5-6, 2008 will bring "Take it Back" a youth led community movement to reduce alcohol problems.

I encourage you to attend the upcoming community events.

If you'd like to share your concerns or ideas,
email me at   talk2shari@lycos.com

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