Youth Coalition grant much more than funding win

On the surface, it looks like just another grant to a program.

But the background of the $16,650 in grant funding from the Community Drug Abuse Prevention Grant Program to the Youth Development Task Force of the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition is about much more than dollars and cents.

It’s about hope and resolve.

The task force was formed to give local students a voice on the topic of youth health and it has grown to include more than 50 students with representation from each of Lycoming County’s eight school districts as well as St. John Neumann Regional Academy.

The group is taking a deep look at the root causes of drug use, particularly as it relates to the ongoing opioid epidemic. They have been using data from Pennsylvania Youth Surveys and local focus groups.

Besides funding future surveys with focus groups, they will use their grant money for a comprehensive youth education and marketing campaign geared to attacking the top reason for the drug epidemic – mental health issues.

“Mental health issues are really the cause of drug abuse,” said Beth McMahon, adviser to the task force and health science professor at Lock Haven University.

She said the students have linked drug use with mental health problems such as depression using data from their surveys and focus groups.

“They’re going to be turning the thing around – these kids are going to fix this.”

If that turns out to be true, it will be the best use of $16,650 in grant funding that we have seen.