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Drug Free Coalition receives $625,000 grant
Funding keeps program alive for 5 more years
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The Drug Free Coalition of Hall County has been awarded $625,000 to remain in existence for the next five years.

“They actually awarded more (grants) this year than they did last year,” said Coalition Director JP Banks. “I don’t know how many people, total, applied this year.”

There was $19.8 million total awarded in grants, coming through the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The current five-year grant for the Hall Coalition was scheduled to run out Sept. 30. Banks said it was a “possibility” the grant funding would fall through. One of the programs that received the grant alongside Hall County in 2008 did not receive the grant this time around, he said.

Banks said grant applications can receive up to 100 points, and then the grant money is awarded to those receiving the most points until the money runs out. He was not sure how high the Hall Coalition had scored.

“Last year, if you did not score a 96 percent or above, you did not get funding because they just ran out,” he explained. “This year, they gave 90 more grants, so they had more money to give out this year.”

The Drug Free Coalition works to reduce underage alcohol, prescription drug and marijuana usage and abuse.

“I think it’s a tremendous validation of the excellent work that the coalition has done ever since it started,” said David Westfall, District 2 public health director. “I think it’s just amazing how much has been accomplished in a short period of time.”

Banks said one of the more immediate goals of the group is to work with Hall and municipalities in the county to put a social host ordinance in place, which would hold adults responsible for underage drug and alcohol consumption in their homes.

“If Johnny has a graduation party at home and there’s alcohol being served, and there’s a police report filed and made, they could receive a citation for social hosting,” Banks explained about what would happen if an ordinance like that is passed.

He also plans to continue a program that has parents go through a mock bedroom of a teenager. Law enforcement officials hide drugs and paraphernalia in the mock bedroom, which is then open for parents to go through and try to find all the different hiding places.

“Then we talk to the parents about how they need to be involved,” Banks said. “It’s not only should they need to know what’s going on, but that they (know) they have a right to go into their child’s bedroom if they suspect (something), and go and look for this stuff.”

This is the second five-year period the federal agency has funded the Hall coalition. Once the 10 years are over, the group will no longer be eligible for the grant.

Banks said the group is in the process of applying for nonprofit status, which would enable it to remain financially viable when the grant program is over.

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