Communities across Winona County just got a big boost in their efforts to combat youth substance abuse. The Winona County Alliance for Substance Prevention (ASAP) got its start in 2012, as Winona area parents, community leaders, criminal justice officials, and health care professionals grappled for ways to deal with a wave of synthetic drug abuse among young people across the county. The group spent its first couple years rallying members and being denied for grants. Now it has won big. This year, ASAP received the first part of a $530,000, five-year federal grant and organizers will soon be launching a series of programs aimed at giving parents, teachers, and local communities the tools to combat youth alcohol and drug abuse.
“It is a big grant,” acknowledged Live Well Winona Community Wellness Director Janneke Sobeck, who spends part of her time overseeing ASAP. Winona County has won numerous federal grants for various criminal justice prevention programs, but those grants are usually for tens of thousands of dollars and a couple years at a time, after which point funding for the programs may disappear. This big, long grant gives ASAP the time to set up a program that can make a difference in the long-term, Sobeck said. “We’re very excited,” she added.
Until 2016, ASAP was run by volunteers with very busy lives. The grant will help pay for various programs ASAP is planning and its newly hired full-time coordinator, Phil Huerta.
People do not always like to talk about it, but youth substance abuse is a problem in our area, Sobeck said. “Most people have at least one person in their daily lives that is affected by substance abuse,” she stated.