2007-02-08 / Front Page

Student assistance program seeks share of federal funding

By Sam Bari

Rhode Island will receive $2.5 million in federal funds annually for the next three years, and it is questionable whether Jamestown will receive a portion of those funds, according to Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force Coordinator Laura Hosley.

"That money is going to 14 task forces around the state with the worst statistics. We don't know how much, if any, is going to benefit us," she added.

"It is crucial that we get more funding in order for our program to survive," she continued. "The problem is, our program is working. We have the statistics to prove it. Consequently, we don't appear to be in need because our stats are good."

According to Hosley, substance abuse prevention is invisible. When it works, nobody knows, because nothing appears to change. Preventing substance abuse from starting is the best cure, but getting funding for something that doesn't appear to be a problem is difficult, she said.

"We know our programs work because we keep records, Hosley said.

"For instance: 47 percent of Lawn Avenue School eighth-graders surveyed in school year 2004- 05 thought that smoking marijuana regularly was a great risk to physical and mental health. A year later, 67 percent of Lawn Avenue eighth- graders surveyed in school year 2005-06 thought smoking marijuana put their health at great risk. That's a 20 percent increase to the good, and those figures concur across the board, with alcohol, cigarettes, crack, cocaine and other drugs. We would like to think that our programs played a major role in improving those statistics," she added.

"We share Stephanie Nocon, a student assistance councilor, with Little Compton. We have her for three days a week and they have her for two," Hosley said. "We need her five days a week so she is available more than just during school hours, because we need her to work with Melissa Minto and the Teen Center."

"We share Stephanie with Little Compton because that is the only way we can afford her services," Hosley said.

"Twenty years ago, the state asked all schools if they wanted a student assistance councilor. At the time, we didn't think we needed one, so we said 'no.' All schools that said 'no' were never given a second chance. Then when we did need a councilor, we had to provide the funding, and it comes out of the task force budget," she said.

"Right now, all task forces are given money from the state through Mental Health Retardation and Hospitals (MHRH). The task forces are funded according to population. That money pays for local student assistance councilor," Hosley said.

"Last year, our expenses were approximately $36,000. This year, they went up to $40,000," she added.

Carolyn James, the task force coordinator from Little Compton, and Hosley wrote letters to MHRH asking for funds. Federal grant money was available, but only for this year, and that covered the escalating expenses. "If we hadn't received additional funding, we would have had to survive until the end of June on $1,000," Hosley said.

"Despite the bleak picture, we do have ideas for strategies for acquiring needed revenues for the near future. Sharing funding with different departments to possibly get more money from schools is one approach," she said.

"I asked the North Kingstown task force if we could partner with them and they thought it was a great idea," Hosley continued. "They have three middle schools feeding students to them and they need to improve their statistics. Our good record and improving stats could be an asset to their program and provide us with the dollars we require," she added.

"We know we're doing a good job with the resources at our disposal. We've proven that our programs work. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser is working very hard with the town as well as state and federal agencies to support the ongoing effort. We hope to see some of the federal dollars come our way. Between contributions, tax dollars, grants, and volunteer support, we feel that the town will benefit greatly from the programs and services that we provide, even though they are not always that visible," Hosley said.

Return to top