Lyon County Board of Education is among 21 Kentucky organizations to share more than $2.6 million in federal grant money to battle substance abuse issues.
Through the local board, Champions for a Drug-Free Lyon County will receive $125,000 from the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
The monies, the fourth installment of a five-year grant, is used to create educational programs and raise awareness among youth about the dangers of substance abuse.
"There's always going to be a need, unfortunately," said Nancye Daniel, coordinator of the Champions coalition of community partners from a dozen different segments of the community. "There is always something new to educate about."
The funds are used for disseminating information to students, families and the community about dangers of using illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco by children.
Champions utilizes flyers, media advertising, billboards, public service announcements shown on theater screens before movies and even targeted pop-up advertising on popular websites among youth.
"If we reduce substance use among youth, in the long-term, it reduces the use by the adult population," Daniel said.
Grant money also funds Daniel's position and that of School Resource Office Chris Smith through Lyon County Sheriff's Department.
A great portion of the current Champions outreach targets vaping, which has increased tobacco use among juveniles after local use plummeted, according to annual data from Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) Surveys.
Smith said some among the school district's 875 or so students are under the impression that vaping is a harmless alternative to cigarettes.
But he warns that it still delivers nicotine, a toxic substance.
The officer adds that unregulated, inexpensive vaping knockoffs have led to sickness among local youth and even deaths in the nation.
"Right now, that is huge," Daniel said of vaping concerns, which are driven in part by the KIP Survey results gathered from local students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12.
DFC grant monies must be matched dollar for dollar locally, but most of that comes through in-kind contributions from the board of education, which acts as the fiscal agent for the grant.
Though use of the funds is restricted to battling substance abuse, how it is utilized to do that can be customized by each of the 21 grant recipients in Kentucky.
"Each community is different," Daniel said. "(ONDCP) leaves it to the coalition to address the problems."
The local Champions coalition was formed in 2004. Daniel took over as coordinator in 2016 and was part of the grant-writing committee that first applied for the DFC money.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy has a presence in all 50 states, so competition for the grant monies is very competitive, Daniel said. In fact, of the more than 20 grant recipients in the Commonwealth for 2019-20, only one other western Kentucky school district, Webster County, was among them.
Daniel is already planning to apply for another five-year DFC grant to continue the work already underway.
However, she said no preferential treatment is given to organizations already receiving funding.
"It's very competitive," Daniel said. "Only 13 percent who apply are awarded."