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Western Youth Network Receives Grant for Avery County to Focus on Primary Prevention

Avery County was one of ten communities in North Carolina selected to receive a Partnership for Success (PFS) grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Over the next four years, dedicated staff in Avery County will focus on preventing the onset and progression of underage alcohol use and e-cigarette use/vaping. The PFS grant is managed by the Division of Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse Services (DMHDDSAS) in collaboration with Addiction Professionals of North Carolina (APNC).

Addressing health disparities at the community scale is also a central component of the work of this grant. To ensure positive outcomes, the selected communities will be working with various local and state partners to collaborate in data collection to identify the underlying causes of substance use and planning interventions to decrease related consequences. SAMHSA has identified school systems, faith-based organizations, law enforcement, civic organizations, local government, parents, youth, etc as instrumental partners.

Western Youth Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving a five-county region in the High Country of North Carolina. For nearly 35 years, WYN has been providing youth and communities with safety, skills, and support through the implementation of evidence-based programs and services. WYN currently implements after-school and summer programming, mentoring, high school advocacy, and community health initiatives.

By utilizing the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) model, WYN staff will be able to advance efforts to prevent the onset and reduce progression of underage alcohol use and e-cigarette use/vaping by youth ages 9 to 20. Working collaboratively with community partners to improve overall health, WYN hopes to increase the capacity of Avery County to achieve the following: address youth substance use; improve social connectedness; reduce health disparities; and reduce the negative impacts of alcohol and related consequences within the community.

According to the NC Youth Tobacco Survey, reported high school use of e-cigarettes/vaping in Western North Carolina was 19.5% compared to 16.9% for the state as a whole. Additionally, according to the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) NC State Report on underage drinking prevention and enforcement, youth ages 12-20 reported past month consumption of alcohol at a rate of 15.40%.

Gretchen Summerville, Director of Community Health Initiatives for Western Youth Network, stated, “We are thrilled for this new opportunity to strengthen our partnerships and capacity in Avery County. This grant award will provide additional resources to collect data, and to plan and implement environmental strategies to prevent youth substance use and the contributing social determinants of health, while also focusing on community health equity. We are grateful to have an Avery County native leading this project and to announce the mid-January opening of a new satellite office location at Sugarfoot Shops, 2953 Tynecastle Hwy, Unit 5, Banner Elk.”

Tiffany Moon, Avery County Community Health Coordinator for Western Youth Network, stated, “ I am so excited to be part of this opportunity to provide a solid foundation for prevention work using the strategic prevention framework model to create change and a healthy community for our youth. I have had a passion, since learning about prevention work during my time at OASIS, Inc., to move away from crisis work and unpack “the why” of what is leading to unhealthy behaviors and violence.”

More details regarding the grant and new office location will be forthcoming. For more information, please contact Tiffany Moon, WYN Avery Community Health Coordinator, moont@westernyouthnetwork.org.