A $50,000 grant will help Lawrence agencies fight tobacco, alcohol and illegal drug use among teens.
The city, through several social service agencies, has been approved as one of three sites for a "Project Freedom Replication Initiative," financed through a planning grant from the Wichita-based Kansas Health Foundation.
The grant, renewable with up to $100,000 a year for three years, is designed to help reduce substance abuse among youths between the ages of 12 and 17, with a concentration on prevention.
"`Just Say No' just doesn't always cut it very far, or for very long," said Karen Ross, director of prevention for DCCCA, a substance abuse treatment center in Lawrence.
The program will be modeled after Wichita's "Project Freedom," a community coalition of more than 450 individuals and organizations who together tackle everything from drug education to treatment.
In Lawrence, Ross said, the grant will help hire trained staffers for coordinating the efforts of parents, youth groups, neighborhood associations, city agencies, school programs, law enforcement officers, health-care providers and religious organizations.
"When you have a stake in what's going to happen, you're more likely to support it," she said. "This really is an empowerment grant."
According to Lawrence's grant application, signed by City Manager Mike Wildgen, surveys in 1991 and 1992 indicated that Lawrence youths used more drugs than their Kansas peers.
In a survey of high school juniors -- most of them enrolled in Lawrence High's Alternative Program -- nearly half reported being regular users of alcohol, while 44 percent said they regularly used marijuana, the application said.
"It takes everyone working together and focusing on solving these problems," said Donna Osness, principal of Riverside Elementary School. "We can only do this if we work together."
Lawrence joins two other organizations -- the Northeast Kansas Mental Health and Guidance Center in Leavenworth, and the Geary County School Board in Junction City -- in receiving the grants, which in the first year are set aside for planning.
A key strategy of the program is to develop positive self-esteem in youths and promote healthy group identity among youth. Next year, a Lawrence community-schools coalition plans to form a career mentoring subcommittee to identify local programs needing expansion or other assistance. The grant proposal also envisioned student-leadership training opportunities and the development of a youth task force, which would represent youth interests in community organizations.
The statewide project is overseen by Program Director Adrienne Paine, an adjunct assistant professor of human development and family life at Kansas University. Administering Lawrence's grant will be Osness and Marlene Merrill, director of assessments and grants for the Lawrence school district.