A Riverhead CAP drug take-back event in 2018. Courtesy photo.

The Riverhead Community Awareness Program recently received a major funding boost to support its youth substance abuse and mental health prevention programs through two new grant awards. The first, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Partnership for Success grant, will provide $375,000 a year for five years. The second is through Suffolk County Opioid Settlement funds and will provide $225,000 a year for three years.

The goal of the Partnership for Success grant is to prevent and reduce the onset and progression of substance misuse and its related problems by strengthening community-level prevention capacity to address substance abuse prevention concerns. CAP has partnered with Riverhead Central School District, Northwell Health, Riverhead Police Department, and Suffolk County Office of Health Education to strengthen prevention infrastructure within the Riverhead schools and community.

“The purpose of the PFS grant is to create sustainable prevention and early intervention services in Riverhead,” Riverhead CAP Executive Director Felicia Scocozza said. “We know that the three most important environments affecting young people’s development are families, school, and communities. This funding will allow us to address all three with a strategic approach.”

CAP was one of only nine community organizations nationwide to receive this funding.

In addition, CAP was one of 34 organizations in Suffolk County to receive support through the first round of Suffolk County Opioid Settlement funds. The funds will be used to increase prevention and education around opioid misuse, and sustain efforts to reduce availability of prescription medication and opioids in the community.

In 2014, CAP and its partners through the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth began an aggressive medication take-back strategy as part of its 10-year federal Drug-Free Communities Program grant. Those funds will sunset at the end of 2023. To date, the coalition has collected over 11,000 pounds of medication, preventing potential abuse and accidental poisonings.

According to Scocozza, these two new funding streams will be used to increase evidence-based prevention and early intervention programs in Riverhead schools; expand Riverhead youth programs; provide resources, community education and retailer outreach around safe adult marijuana storage; train school and local medical personnel in SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment) in partnership with Northwell Health; increase parent outreach and participation in prevention efforts; and increase bilingual support and services.

“On behalf of the Riverhead Central School District, I would like to congratulate CAP on receiving these distinguished awards,” said Riverhead School Superintendent Augustine Tornatore said. “We deeply value our partnership with CAP, and the services they provide have a markedly positive influence on our students and the entire community. We look forward to all of the exceptional programs they will put this funding toward.”

Research indicates that most youth that engage in substance use (alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs) will not develop a substance use disorder. However, there is a link between early initiation of alcohol and marijuana use and opioid misuse in young adulthood. According to a policy brief by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, “the development of substance use disorders, including opioid use disorders, is often preceded by a variety of other problems including academic failure, antisocial behavior, anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress. One of the most effective approaches involves the implementation of early intervention strategies that prevent problems from occurring or tackles them head-on when they do appear before problems worsen.”

In addition to early intervention strategies, the brief also identified two evidence-based approaches to identify at-risk youth: SBIRT, which will be implemented through this grant, and Youth Mental Health First Aid training, which CAP is providing under a previous grant from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski was instrumental in supporting CAP’s application for Opioid funding.
“I applaud and congratulate Riverhead CAP for securing funds for their ongoing programs, including monies from the Suffolk County Opioid Settlement,” Krupski said.

“These awards reflect the organization’s effectiveness in the schools and their importance to the entire town. I am gratified these grants will help CAP continue their important work in preventing drug abuse and addiction in young people living in the Riverhead community.”

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