120419_BNN_Bartow_Against_Drugs1

Garrett Strickland checks out the Bartow Against Drugs table at a recent Teen Maze event at Georgia Highlands College.

A White House-sponsored program will provide $625,000 in the next five years to a Bartow organization which targets teen drug and alcohol abuse, the county’s congressman says.

District 11 U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, recently announced the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy awarded a Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant to Cartersville-based Bartow Against Drugs.

It was among only 150 new grants awarded nationwide, Loudermilk said.

Bartow Against Drugs is an organization dedicated to raising awareness in Bartow County about local substance abuse problems that middle school- and high school-aged county residents face and how they can find treatment, a news release stated.

Scott Sherwin, who leads the eight-year-old nonprofit, said the main focus of Bartow Against Drugs is “prevention” among middle and high school students.

“We have programs in place to help our youth make positive decisions when it comes to substance use. We also want to provide resources to families who are struggling with this issue,” he said.

Its funding generally comes from the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Project, which is coordinated by the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Sherwin said.

The annual $125,000 grant will allow the organization to expand its efforts into more schools and the community in general, he said.

“We will also be able to allocate dollars into marijuana education,” he said.

The grant was one of only 150 new DFC grants awarded across the nation to “community coalitions to strengthen the infrastructure among local partners to create and sustain a reduction in local youth substance use,” the news release stated.

“Georgia’s 11th Congressional District is a tight-knit community, and organizations like Bartow Against Drugs … show their dedication every day to ensuring we stay close and engaged with our youth,” Loudermilk said.

“Given there were so few grants awarded across the nation, this just serves as a reminder that our youth here are supported by some of the best organizations in the country, and we greatly appreciate all they do for our community,” he said.

Sherwin said his organization has seen a decline in the number of young people drinking alcoholic beverages but an increase in those abusing marijuana and vaping or smoking e-cigarettes.

“Considering the long-term effects of these two drugs, it’s very concerning when we realize how many of our young people are taking part,” he said..

Bartow Against Drugs works to raise awareness through such programs as its Text-Back Pledge Campaign, Sherwin said.

More than 1,000 youth and parents receive monthly prevention and education-centered texts, he said.

Its representatives also speak with parents at high school forums, he said.

“As well, we will use billboards strategically throughout the county,” Sherwin said.

To combat teen alcohol use, the organization employs a program titled “Reward & Reminder” in which it sends people into retail stores to attempt to buy alcoholic beverages, he said.

Another person then watches to see if the retailers are following the law and asking for proof of age.

“We provide a reward card to those merchants who ask for proper ID when selling alcohol to one of our surveyors,” Sherwin said.

“Several merchants proudly display their reward cards. I love how this shows the community — and our youth in particular — that these retailers are not going to sell to minors.

“If the retailer fails our compliance check, then our surveyor hands them a ‘reminder’ card which lets them know the laws and penalties they could face. We are then able to provide them with retail alcohol training information.

“We provide the results of our efforts — passes and fails — to local law enforcement,” he said.

The organization also is offering Sources of Strength training at some schools, he said.

“Sources of Strength is a strength-based comprehensive wellness program that focuses on suicide prevention but impacts other issues such as substance abuse and violence,” he said.

It began the training last school year at Cartersville High School and added Cartersville Middle School this year with a goal “to get the program into all middle and high schools over the next few years,” Sherwin said.

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