The impact of the opioid crisis is felt around the state of Indiana, and it’s a matter that’s been a focus of Gov. Eric Holcomb since he took office.
On Wednesday, Jim McClelland, who was appointed by Holcomb as the state’s executive director for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement, made three stops at schools in the region, including one in Martinsville, to announce a new partnership between the governor’s office and Youth First Inc. to help combat the crisis.
“I am pleased to announce that the state is making an investment of $811,901 to increase Youth First presence in Daviess, Posey and Warrick counties and extend Youth First prevention model to Monroe, Morgan and Orange counties,” McClelland said during his stop at Bell Intermediate Academy. “Funded through FSSA [Family and Social Services Administration] Division of Mental Health and Addiction, the project will support Youth First’s social work services and prevention programs in 15 schools in nine school corporations. The partnering schools and private donors are also contributing significant financial support to launch and sustain this project.”
He said that the grant was just one part of the governor’s approach to addressing the problem. McClelland said the goal of the strategy is to help keep people alive, expand access to treatment for substance use disorders, and increase efforts to prevent others from developing substance use disorders.
“Really, what we want to do is as much as possible to reduce the potential that we’ll ever again face a crisis of this magnitude from the use or misuse of any addictive substance,” McClelland said.
He said it was particularly important to prevent substance abuse in young people due to the impact on their development.
“The effects of an addictive substance on the developing brain of a child or an adolescent are much greater than on the more fully developed brain of an adult,” McClelland said. “And there’s substantial data showing that the earlier a child starts using any addictive substance, the greater the risk of a serious addiction problem in adulthood.”
He said that reducing substance abuse and other risky behaviors often helps young people to manage emotions, cope with challenges and become resilient.
“From the state’s perspective, we want to see much greater use of substance abuse prevention programs that have strong evidence of lasting impact and the Youth First model has a strong record of effectiveness,” McClelland said. “The approach decreases stress, it increases skills that help young people succeed in school and in life.”
He said that it was easier to prevent problems than to try to fix them after the fact.
“It’s also more cost-effective. Investments up front in programs that we know work generate enormous benefits from economic and human perspectives,” McClelland said. “We are pleased to be able to support Youth First and the work that they do to help kids, their families, and in the process, to help build better communities for all.”
Youth First President and CEO Parri Black said the investment from the governor’s office would give more Indiana students access to a support system that would help protect them against substance abuse.
“We know that being a kid today can be very difficult and it’s also hard on parents and teachers,” McClelland said. “Youth First helps young people cope with life’s challenges in healthy ways by building caring relationships motivating positive changes and developing valuable life skills.”
Black said those skills help prevent substance abuse and suicide, violence and other risky behavior. Social workers from Youth First are embedded in schools where they mentor students and serve as prevention coaches for parents and teachers.
“This new investment from the state supports the placement of 10 Youth First social workers in other prevention programs in 15 schools in the counties Mr. McClelland mentioned,” Black said.
Metropolitan School District of Martinsville Superintendent Dr. Michele Moore said the district was grateful for the opportunity to work with Youth First and being able to further support the social and emotional needs of children in the district.
“This partnership with Youth First will allow us to support the many children in the MSD of Martinsville who experience difficult situations and need the professional expertise of trained mental health counselors like the ones that you find through the work with Youth First,” Moore said.