Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

September 17, 2013

Grant to help deter Tazewell youths from drugs, alcohol

TAZEWELL, Va. — In 2012, more than 21 percent of Tazewell High School students and almost 20 percent of Tazewell Middle School students said in a survey they had ridden in a vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking. A major grant announced Monday could help a local organization steer young people away from substance abuse and other dangerous behavior.

The Substance Abuse Taskforce in Rural Appalachia (SATIRA) in Tazewell County has received a $625,000 Drug-Free Communities Support Grant to help involve the local community to prevent substance abuse among youth, said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) said Monday.

 The grant was among those presented to 147 communities and 19 new DFC Mentoring grants across the country. The awards announced Monday are in addition to the $59.4 million in continuation grants simultaneously released to 473 currently funded DFC coalitions and four DFC Mentoring continuation coalitions.

“We are a substance abuse prevention coalition,” said Sharon Kitts, director of SATIRA. “Our offices are in the commonwealth’s attorney office.”

Tobacco and alcohol are the number one substances abused by young people, Kitts said. One approach to the problem is to address the illegal sales of drugs and alcohol to underage individuals.

“We deal mainly with kids, the illegal alcohol, the tobacco, cigarettes, and stuff like that,” she said.

In 2012, SATIRA along with Tazewell County Schools, took a major step toward the improvement of the overall academic achievement of students in Tazewell County by implementing the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), Kitt said. Students in grades six through 12 participated in this survey created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

This survey measures student engagement in health-risk behaviors that contribute to the decline in their overall wellness and put them at risk for dangerous or life-threatening outcomes, she said. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey provided key information on a wide variety of health risks such as smoking, nutrition, mental health, drug use, and personal safety.

“The data from Tazewell County students shows that the risks facing our teenagers are real and different from other teens. You may even be surprised that rural teens are more likely to have problems with alcohol or illicit drugs,” Kitts said. “Whether the issue is alcohol, drugs, bullying, sexting, or risky driving, studies show that parents consistently underestimate their own kids interest or participation in these behaviors.”

  For example, 21.5 percent of Tazewell County High School students and 19.9 percent of Tazewell County Middle School students said that within the past month they had ridden with someone who has been drinking.  The survey also showed 9.2 percent of Tazewell County High School students reported they have driven a vehicle in the past 30 days while drinking. Another part of the survey indicated that 28.5 percent of Tazewell County students reported texting while driving.

The grant will help SATIRA fund programs in local schools, Kitts said.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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