MISSOULA - You've heard the stats over the past few weeks — Montana youth are struggling with anxiety, with depression, and more.
Some are dealing with substance abuse.
But that was a subject over 10 years ago when Missoula County voters passed the Substance Abuse Prevention Mill Levy (SAP Mill Levy) in 2008. The purpose? Aiding local organizations in preventing underage substance abuse. The fund has been especially helpful in prevention efforts for our youth.
"If someone receives prevention services or or intervention services at the early point, you know that can affect the trajectory of their whole life,” said Western Montana Mental Health Center Outpatient Clinical Program Manager, Kaylee Blackwell.
Montana's Office of Public Instruction's 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found around 35% of students reported they have drunk alcohol or tried marijuana.
It's a statistic Western Montana Health Center wants to see drop. That's why the center, through its "Project Success" and with Empower MT's "EPIC" program and other Missoula agencies to combat underage substance abuse.
“The levy is super important and just being able to keep this program free and to make sure that we're doing better each year,” said Sierra Pannell, Empower MT youth program director. And they're using SAP funds to do it.
“It's a really crucial source of funding for these nonprofits that are providing services in the community to some of our most needy, needy citizens,” said Missoula County Grants and Community Programs manager Melissa Gordon.
Every year the program provides $368,920 for four areas of work.
- Coalition work, bringing community members together in prevention efforts
- Education about the risks and costs of substance abuse
- Alternative supervised activities outside of school that provide alternatives to drug use
- And an effort to help youth and families with early intervention measures
Organizations that have received money, say their preventive program wouldn’t be possible without it.
“There's no way to otherwise fund them if we don't have this kind of grant money,” Blackwell told MTN News.
“Project Success,” provides addiction counselors in every Missoula high school with a focus on establishing a safe relationship with students while educating about drugs and alcohol.
“It's just important to be able to talk about these things…prepare kids to know how to make informed choices,” said Blackwell.
Empower MT’s, “EPIC” program, focuses on prevention with middle school students. The emphasis on after school activities that build confidence in students, so they don’t cave to peer pressure.
“If they are growing in those skills, if they are more positive in their identity, you know, wanting to do better in school, more compassionate- then they are less likely to participate in bullying or participate in those risky behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse,” Pannell told MTN News.
Applications are due by May 11.