DeKalb County awarded a grant to help prevent drug use

By Maria Ahmad

DeKalb County was recently awarded two grants to initiate drug and substance abuse prevention programs throughout the community.

The federal grant was awarded through the Federal Drug Free Commission from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This is the ninth year DeKalb has received a grant in the 10-year-old program. The grant is not guaranteed each year, said Anna Stevens, prevention and education program manager at the Ben Gordon Center, 12 Health Services Drive.

The state-funded grant was issued from the Department of Human Resources specifically to hire staff to work on strategic planning.

“Both grants have come at the perfect time as we are reorganizing and refocusing,” Stevens said. “In the current economy, I couldn’t have asked for more and I am excited to get the right people at the table to make some change.”

A major focus of the grant is to allow for change in the community.

Simply creating awareness and educating through campaigns is not enough, said Stevens.

Stevens is taking a more proactive approach by attending liquor commission meetings.

One of the initiatives of the grants is the 40 Development Assets, which focuses on trying to encourage youth to take an active role in the community.

“The idea is that it takes a community to raise a child,” Stevens said. “Making the youth feel engaged and valued as a citizen helps reduce risk-taking behavior.”

Students are also invited to take initiative in the community.

“NIU students, in general, demonstrate a range of protective behaviors that help them maintain good health,” said Donna Schoenfeld, NIU Health Enhancement director.

Along with awareness programs, community and campus involvement, and the focus on the youth, some students said more can be done at a legal level in regards to drugs.

“If there were harsher punishments or fines for drug abuse, and awareness of those rules, drug use could be reduced,” said sophomore accounting major Jacob Ferguson.