Congressman Higgins Announces $1.25M in Grant Funding to Address Youth Substance Abuse in the City of Tonawanda & Cheektowaga

Government and Politics

September 8, 2022

Grant Funding Supports Drug-Free Communities in Western New York

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced two federal grants totaling $1,250,000 awarded to Tonawanda City School District and the Prevention Council of Erie County. Funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Drug Free Communities Support program, the five-year grants provide funding to support efforts to prevent substance abuse among Western New York youth.

“Addiction is a deadly disease that no family should have to endure, and it takes a village to ensure that kids and teens are properly educated on the impact that drug use can have on their own lives, as well as others,” said Congressman Higgins. “Federal funding will provide critical support to local programs working to reduce substance use among youth in Tonawanda and Cheektowaga, putting students on a path toward a drug-free lifestyle.”

The Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program was created by the Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997. It is supported by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). The program works to establish and strengthen collaboration among communities, public and private nonprofit organizations, as well as federal, state, tribal, and local governments to support the efforts of community coalitions working to reduce substance abuse among youth and adults.

The Tonawanda City School District will receive a $625,000 grant through the DFC Support Program over five years with annual funding totaling $125,000. The grant will support several initiatives that the Tonawanda Drug Free Coalition is undertaking to strengthen community collaboration to reduce youth substance use. Serving a community of 15,129, the coalition will build a community network of systems and supports to address addiction among youth. By modifying policies and procedures, the district will shift toward a proactive approach to addressing drug use by implementing prevention programs in upper-elementary and middle school curriculums. It will also embrace a district-wide culture shift to better support youth as they face the pressure and stress of secondary education. Overall, the funding aims to reach students in grades five through twelve by training socially influential students as peer leaders, implementing ongoing prevention programs, placing vaping prevention posters on school grounds, and creating a social media campaign. Additionally, students who are struggling with addiction will receive supportive services and get connected district-led recovery programs. The coalition will also bring the community together during an annual Red Ribbon Week that celebrates being drug-free with motivational speakers and family activities, cementing the opportunity to spotlight awareness and prevention related to nicotine and cannabinoids.

Tonawanda City School District Superintendent Timothy Oldenburg said, "This grant was written in a collaborative, comprehensive, and collective process with the support of our DFC consortium of local partners, community organizations, educators, administrators, and parent Amanda Shepler, who is an experienced grant writer.  Being awarded this grant allows our district to engage with our students and community to purposefully address the goals and objectives of the Drug-Free Community Support Program.  We believe that our community will be stronger, more educated, and thoughtful regarding the prevention and awareness of abuse and addiction while sharing current and creating new support."

The Prevention Council of Erie County will also receive a five-year grant totaling $625,000 from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to support the Cheektowaga Health Youth Coalition. Serving a community of 73,740, the coalition will establish and strengthen community efforts to prevent youth substance use. In doing so, they will collaborate with the four Cheektowaga school districts, as well as community organizations to better reach marginalized youth and increase participation in drug-free activities. Additionally, the program will conduct special efforts to reach both kids and parents about the harmful effects that drugs and alcohol have on underage youth.

This year ONDCP announced 99 new DFC awards, which represents an investment by the Biden-Harris Administration of approximately $12.4 million in youth substance use prevention in communities across the country. The new coalitions will join the 646 previously awarded grant recipients, with a total investment by the Biden-Harris Administration of approximately $93.1 million to support prevention efforts.

Robin Mann, Executive Director of The Prevention Council of Erie County said, “Substance abuse touches everyone in some way, and The Prevention Council’s programs are designed to promote healthy behaviors and empower individuals, families and communities to live free from the negative impacts of substance use”.

Created in 1948, the Prevention Council of Erie County serves more than 10,000 people annually and has reached over 239,500 across the community by leading substance use prevention, education, and early intervention programs. To learn more, visit https://thepreventioncouncilec.org/.