Project Spotlight: Clay County’s Drug-Free Communities Award Bolstering Impact

This article was published on: 03/27/2024

Clay County Efforts to Increase Healthy Youth Decision Making Receives Boost with Recent Grant Funding

A commitment to the mission of prevention of youth substance use is incredibly personal to a county that has seen tragedy. A community collaborative effort—Clay Counts Coalition—is working to effect long-term positive change for the good of the community.

“We are focused on kids, but not exclusively kids,” says Lori Martin, who serves as Community Mobilizer for the Clay Counts Coalition. “The kids today are going to become the adult leaders of tomorrow. This initiative is investing in the future of our communities.”

In November, nearly 300 adults attended the first Courageous Conversations Night at the Rex Theatre in Clay Center, Kansas. This is one of many activities supported, in part, through the CDC Drug-Free Communities project awarded in September 2023. (Courtesy Photo, KCLY Radio)

The Clay Counts Coalition has existed in Clay County, Kansas, since 2007. Many local partners and volunteers are involved in its work. Recent grant funding is helping to bolster community impact. The Coalition was awarded a $125,000 grant in September 2023 through the CDC Drug-Free Communities Support Program. It is renewable for up to five years. Clay County Health Department serves as the grant’s fiscal agent, and Martin as the program director. A grant coordinator, Matt Weller, was recently hired. He will help coordinate efforts with the school district. Deb Ohlde, NCRPC’s Assistant Director of Strategic Initiatives, provided grant writing assistance.

“We had been told that the program was highly competitive and that we would likely not get funded on our first try,” Martin says. “We asked Deb not to write the grant completely but to serve as the captain of the team. She did a great job of keeping us on task and schedule. We could have continued to limp along as volunteers, but this funding solidified and amplified our impact in the community. This award has strengthened the structure of the Coalition.”

The Coalition is planning many activities for the next five years of the project. Supporting Clay County YLinK, or Youth Leaders in Kansas, is just one example. The Clay Center Community High School chapter of YLinK hosted a Community Commitment/Courageous Conversations Night in November at the Rex Theatre in Clay Center.

“About 300 adults came out that night,” says Martin, who also serves as YLinK sponsor. “This tells you the level of interest and involvement in the community. It was impactful.”

The evening started with a video—”What We Need You to Know”—created by YLinK members.  A small group of students will continue their advocacy by speaking at special state-level events this spring.

More Courageous Conversations events are planned, building on the success of the first. These events will focus on alcohol and drug education, mental health, and more.

The Coalition received additional funding from the Kansas Suicide Prevention Coalition and Drug Endangered Children in Kansas, which only help to further momentum to address challenges.

“I recently read a quote in an email that I think really captures the essence of what we do—’Creating resiliency by addressing the social needs of our communities,’” says Martin.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2024 NCRPC Newsletter.

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