Anti-drug coalition gets grant, plans community events

·2 min read

Sep. 29—A coalition formed to curb youth vaping and alcohol use in Nicollet County now has support from a federal grant. One of its first efforts is co-sponsoring educational events Oct. 7 for Mankato area professionals and parents.

The Nicollet County Adolescent Chemical Wellness Advocates is among the community entities sponsoring a visit from former Idaho law enforcement officer Jermaine Galloway. He now travels the country educating about drug and alcohol prevention and enforcement.

Parents, grandparents and other adult community members are invited to an evening presentation about drug trends, recognizing drug paraphernalia and terms, and other indicators of use.

A daytime professional development conference also take place for educators, law enforcement, health and mental health professionals, and others who work with youth.

The events are the first sponsored by the Adolescent Chemical Wellness Advocates. It's a coalition of representatives of area schools, health care organizations, law enforcement agencies and others seeking to address youth substance use in the area.

The group formed in 2019 largely in response to a spike in youth vaping, said Nicollet County Public Health Supervisor Bree Allen. Schools in the county were reporting concerning numbers of students vaping in school buildings, Allen said, many using devices disguised to look like other objects.

The Minnesota Student Survey taken that same year confirmed cause for concern. Around one-fifth of the county's ninth and 11th-graders (the two high school grades surveyed) reported vaping within the prior month.

While vaping was the primary concern at its founding, Allen said the coalition also will work to prevent underage alcohol consumption and other substance abuse and will evolve in response to use trends.

"We will respond to the needs of the community," she said.

The coalition's work was disrupted by the pandemic but is gearing up again, Allen said.

It's buoyed by a nearly $600,000 five-year grant from the federal Drug-Free Communities Support Program.

The grant funds will be used in part to hire a coordinator dedicated to advancing coalition initiatives.

Goals for the coming year include hosting more public educational events, Allen said. A coalition member also recently completed training to soon lead classes for employees of businesses that sell alcohol about their legal responsibilities.

Any Nicollet County community member interested in substance use prevention is welcome to join the coalition, Allen said. Go to www.facebook.com/NCACWA for more information and follow the page for status updates.

If You Go

What: The Tall Cop Says Stop community event

When: 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7

Where: Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center.

Other information: There is no cost to attend. Registration is requested at https://bit.ly/2Veoa09.

Professionals conference is 10 a.m.-4:30 a.m. Oct. 7 at the center. Cost is $50. Registration required by Friday at www.eventbrite.com/e/153826191279.

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