OSWEGO — Farnham Family Services and the Oswego County Prevention Coalition this month received another round of a multi-year federal grant to combat local youth substance abuse.
U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, announced the funding earlier this month and said it would allow the Oswego-based organizations to expand addiction prevention efforts. The funding is provided through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Drug Free Communities (DFC) Support Program, and local officials said it would be used to increase public knowledge about cannabis and proper opioid management.
“With rates of addiction rising in Central New York during the pandemic, this award comes at a pivotal time,” Katko said in a statement. “The DFC program is considered the nation’s leading effort to prevent and reduce youth substance use disorder and will provide Farnham with the resources they need to continue engaging and educating local children.”
The multi-year program allocates $125,000 annually through 2025 — totaling $625,000 — to different coalitions throughout the nation, according to the CDC. Since the program started in 1997, funding has “ensured communities adopt a balanced and comprehensive approach to reducing substance use in their neighborhoods.”
This is the second time Farnham Family Services and the Oswego County Prevention Coalition (OCPC) has been awarded federal funding through the program.
“We are excited for the next five years and (the ability) to continue to educate and keep doing what we are going to do for the community,” said OCPC Coordinator Tyler Ahart. “It’s a community stakeholder project, so it’s a team effort and it’s not just me or this organization, but us coming together to change social norms."
The first round of funding concluded this year, and between 2016 and 2021, federal money helped stimulate efforts to prevent youth alcohol misuse and opioid abuse. However, recently the coalition’s targeted substances has shifted, which Ahart called a “sign of success.”
“We are really expanding our prevention efforts and increasing wellness levels in the county,” he said. “We are in a position to shift our focus, which is a good thing. It’s a sign of success that alcohol (now) gets its own program and now we can educate (people) about cannabis.”
According to Eric Bresee, executive director of Farnham Family Services, the money will be used to educate and inform the community about the dangers of cannabis and opioid use for minors aged 13 to 18.
Every two years, Ahart said OCPC conducts a countywide youth development survey regarding substance use. The most recent survey, completed in fall 2020, indicated a decrease in cannabis’ “perception of harm” — a decline in perceived dangers associated with cannabis.
Oswego City School District Superintendent Mathis Calvin III told The Palladium-Times Wednesday the survey is a “important support mechanism” for students and allows the district to provide students with the best possible educational experience.
“(The survey) is an anonymous measuring stick that gives us metrics to decide where we can best help our students,” Calvin said. “It helps us make funding allocations, decide what programming is most important and make sure we are showcasing avenues for help and assistance.”
Ahart attributed the increase partly to the state’s legalization of cannabis for residents aged 21 or older through the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act and the subsequent marketing campaigns regarding cannabis-related products.
“During the last (round of funding), cannabis wasn’t really relevant from a legal standpoint. We had to educate people on the dangers and harms of cannabis use, but now we have to change our approach,” Ahart said. “If something is illegal, right away it’s already perceived as harmful... but now it’s legalized and (youth) trust state and local government and law enforcement to get their indications of what they’re supposed to feel at that age.”
Ahart noted it comes down to student perception, and students consider marijuana and its psychoactive compounds less serious as it’s legalized and use is more open. He said it’s the coalition’s job to continue to educate them and make clear legalization is not an excuse to abuse another substance.
Bresee said the “long game” is prevention and if the increased efforts are successful, there would be fewer patients seeking alcohol and opioid addiction-related services at Farnham — two services he said saw an increase in enrollment over the course for the pandemic.
“When we are successful with prevention efforts, hopefully by the time they get to the (early adult) age, they are not using substances to the point where it’s harmful,” Bresee said, noting Farnham patients’ primary age group is between 24 and 44.
“The idea is if we are effective on the prevention end, it slows down the amount of people who need appointments and treatment later,” Bresee said.
Farnham and OCPC are two local agencies that work closely together to provide drug addiction and education-related services to the community. Farnham maintains locations throughout Oswego County in the cities of Oswego and Fulton, town of Mexico and village of Pulaski.