Anti-drug program takes root
New focus includes all of Gresham, not just Rockwood, and will also apply to area schools
As Rockwood's federally funded Weed and Seed program begins its final year, a new program designed to reduce drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse among Gresham youth is taking root.
Gresham's Drug-Free Community Support Program, dubbed the Greater Gresham Area Prevention Partnership, or GGAPP, started this month and will receive about $100,000 a year for five years.
'Everything we learned from Weed and Seed we're going to use to kickstart it (the new anti-drug program),' said Maura White-Cioeta, executive director of the Police Activities League of Greater Portland, which is the program's 'fiscal agent' or financial middleman.
'It's all intertwined,' added Brenda Butler, Rockwood Weed and Seed site coordinator.
Rockwood's Weed and Seed program blossomed in October 2002. Since then, about $1 million in federal funding - channeled through the Police Activities League, or PAL - has helped the community reduce gang activity, violent crime and drug abuse while revitalizing the area by providing access to health care, social services and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.
But the program is reaching the end of its five-year life, so in April, Butler and White-Cioeta teamed up to apply for the Drug-Free Community Program.
Last month, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration approved their application, making Gresham one of 107 communities across the country to receive $10.5 million in grants. A total of 353 communities applied for the funding.
Other areas in Oregon awarded Drug-Free Community Support Program status include Salem, Albany, The Dalles, Bend and Roseburg.
The Greater Gresham Area Prevention Partnership will apply to all of Gresham, not just Rockwood as Weed and Seed did. It also will apply to three of the area's school districts - Reynolds, Gresham-Barlow and Centennial.
According to the 2002, 2003 and 2004 Oregon Healthy Teens Surveys in those same districts, 27 percent of eighth graders consumed alcohol, 10 percent used tobacco and 9 percent used marijuana in the past 30 days.
As for 11th graders, 50 percent consumed alcohol, 22 percent used tobacco and 20 percent used marijuana in the last 30 days.
White-Cioeta is particularly troubled by the high rates of alcohol consumption, which for 11th graders is higher than the state average of 41 percent.
'With so many kids out here relying on cars for transportation, it's a very scary thing,' she said.
There will be one year of overlap in which Weed and Seed will close out its grant by September 2007.
Until then, Weed and Seed will try to carry its efforts over to either the new anti-drug program or to local nonprofits. 'We're committed; we want this thing to carry on,' White-Cioeta said.
White-Cioeta said the new program is a natural extension of the Weed and Seed program, as well as PAL, which has a 17-year history of providing safe after-school programs to youth and operates a youth center in Rockwood at 424 N.E. 172nd Ave.
It also is a lot like an effort in the early to mid 1990s, also called the Gresham Area Prevention Partnership, or GAPP for short, for which PAL was the fiscal agent.