“GRAAB [Going Respectfully Against Addictive Behaviors] identified substances abused by members of the community,” said Tanya Southerland, GRAAB director. “A previous student survey from 2009 found the county’s youth admittedly abuse prescription drugs, over the counter medication and inhalants.”
According to a report released by the White House in 2011, prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem.
“Nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically,” the report read.
Southerland is determined to use the grant money to make a difference in Bradley County. The local GRAAB coalition has two goals: high-visibility, high-impact collaboration between their partner organizations and the community and reduced substance abuse among youth.
Partner organizations include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland and Hiwassee Mental Health. The Drug Free Communities Support Program grant allows GRAAB to give money and materials to both partners.
“Direct program costs include adapting and delivering evidence-based programs to youth and parents to promote awareness of the dangers of inhalant and OTC/prescription drug abuse ...” Southerland said.
Funding will be utilized by the Boys & Girls Clubs for their Smart Moves-Smart Leaders and Positive Action curriculums.
“We know preteens and teenagers are experiencing an age where they want to fit in with the right crowd,” Southerland said. “... This grant enhances what the Boys & Girls [Clubs] program is already doing by giving them money and resources.”
Smart Moves is designed to implement health and life skills prevention education while developing good character for dealing positively, ethically, and successfully with all aspects of life. According to Southerland, information will be disseminated through peer led programs, social media and creative videos.
“This grant allows GRAAB to sharpen our program skills through partnership ... It allows us to help build community collaboration,” Southerland said. “It shows us how we can be a better community at addressing substance abuse.”
A partnership with Hiwassee Mental Health allows GRAAB to fund parent (or family support) workshops and individual/group counseling sessions.
“The group sessions are completely free. ... They currently have one group meeting, but they have the capacity for two,” Southerland said.
“The groups are specifically for individuals struggling with prescription drug and substance abuse, as well as inhalants.”
Hiwassee will also utilize the Twelve Step Facilitation outpatient program.
Southerland said she would like to see growth in community involvement.
“Eventually, the funding will run out. It is a five-year grant with a possibility of another five years,” Southerland said. “After the possible 10 years, we do not want the prevention efforts to stop.”
GRAAB encourages community interest by being visible in 12 sectors: youth (18 or younger), parents, business, media, schools, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement, religious/fraternal organizations, civic/volunteer groups, health care professionals, additional organizations involved in reducing substance abuse, and state, local or tribal governmental agencies.
“We know both youth and parents have amazing ideas,” Southerland said. “We just need to know what they are, so we know where we can take those ideas.”
“Maybe there are some incredible youth with great ideas for a media campaign through billboards or public service announcements ...”
GRAAB would be happy to sit and listen to ideas, Southerland said.
Sectors, also known as committees, are open to the public. Southerland describes involvement as, “the willingness to stay connected and stay active with the coalition.”
The public may stay informed of GRAAB’s activities by following the Facebook page, G.R.A.A.B. Coalition (Bradley County, TN), said Southerland.
Grant evaluators will determine whether or not GRAAB is achieving its goals through its programs.