Mercer Island City Hall. File photo

Mercer Island City Hall. File photo

Youth and Family Services gets grants

Money to support drug and alcohol prevention, mental health programs.

A federal grant totalling $1.5 million was awarded to the city of Mercer Island’s Youth and Family Services Department for mental health programs and drug and alcohol prevention work. The grant, accepted unanimously by the city council at a Nov. 4 meeting, does not require any matching funds from the city.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will award the city $300,000 each year for five years. It is a Partnership for Success, Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) grant.

The money will be used to restore the Youth and Family Services (YFS) work that was previously funded by a federal Drug Free Communities grant that ended in 2017.

It will also fund the city’s Healthy Youth Initiative, allow the re-hiring of prevention staff to address community health and awareness education, as well as prevention programming regarding vaping, marijuana, prescription drugs, nicotine, opiates and alcohol. Staff will also work to address stigma, create positive community norms and health messaging, and undergo data-gathering and reporting.

About $24,000 each year will now fund the city’s school mental health counselors. City staff will work together with the school district.

In July, Youth and Family Services received an additional $200,000 from SAMHSA known as a Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP) grant, focused on preventing and reducing underage drinking, to be awarded over a 4-year period.

The two grants, totaling nearly $1.7 million, will work to maximize impact, and also will be used to develop and grow partnerships with regional organizations and academic institutions. Both use SAMHSA-specific framework and methodology.

The SPF grant provides the city with additional capacity for underage alcohol prevention, underage vaping prevention, other drug use prevention, and direct mental health strategies and services. SPF mental health promotion funding also includes parent education, youth mental health screening, stigma reduction campaigns and suicide prevention.

City staff members presented information about the two grants, their requirements, and the work being completed by YFS. Several council members expressed their congratulations.

“I think this is a great thing for YFS and for the city,” said Councilmember Benson Wong, adding that he has worked on a committee addressing alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues as part of the city’s healthy youth initiative.

“I will tell you that for the past couple years (the work) has definitely slowed down because of the lack of funding,” he said. “But I think with this additional funding, I think the focus on preventing alcohol abuse by our young people, and hopefully discouraging other use of drugs and vaping and what have you, I’m just really encouraged and I’m excited about the prospects.”

Mayor Debbie Bertlin echoed the excitement, saying it was a night of good news and congratulating everyone involved.

“A huge thank-you to those of you who are here in the room, but I’m sure it was a team effort that extends well beyond,” Bertlin said. “Super kudos.”

Previously, this funding was only available to Single State Agencies and tribal organizations.

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