The Centre County Board of Commissioners approved two contracts Tuesday that will provide financial support to the Communities That Care program in Centre County.
Each contract totals $49,936, with 100 percent federal funding for the period of Sept. 30, 2014, through Sept. 29, 2015, according to Cathy Arbogast, assistant administrator for the Centre County Drug and Alcohol Office. The county’s two contracts are between the State College borough and Bellefonte Area School District respectively.
“The Communities That Care project supports a number of initiatives throughout the county,” Arbogast said. “It also supports the school districts in the implementation of the Pennsylvania Youth Survey.”
PAYS is an evidence-based tool that collects data on youth in every school district in the county, she said. The data looks at patterns of substance abuse among young people, but also at conditions in the community that put them at risk and the conditions that protect them.
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The data are used by partners in the program who are applying for grants and other programs, she said.
PAYS surveys students over several years, Arbogast said, and is distributed in grades six, eight, 10 and 12. This allows the survey to track trends and look at how things have changed over that time period.
The project has seen some improvement involving specific substances, she said, particularly alcohol and tobacco use. The data also are showing an “uptick” in marijuana use, so the project is changing course in some initiatives to address that.
The county is also showing improvement in the age of first use when young people decide to experiment with a substance, she said. But the data also indicate a downward perception of risk with youth not believing a substance will hurt them or be detrimental.
“A specific example,” she said, is that states have started to approve legalization of marijuana. “Now we’re getting questions from young people saying, ‘If it’s legal there, why isn’t legal here? If it’s legal there, it must be safe.’ ”
This is the 10th and final year the grant can provide funding for the program, Arbogast said. The project is looking to the Centre County United Way for future funding as well as exploring other grants.