After losing much-needed grant money, Franklin County Prevention Coalition Director Tabatha Curtis asked the Finance Committee this past week to make up the difference to keep the organization fully functional.
Curtis requested $76,000, the amount lost when the grant program ended. This is the first time the coalition has asked for funding assistance from the county. The program has been fully funded by grants and other monies since its inception.
If funding is not replaced, the loss of the grant could affect many services in the community including things like alcohol abuse education, training programs, and beer stings that target underage consumption.
The Franklin County Prevention Coalition evolved eight years ago out of the City of Winchester’s Weed and Seed initiative — a crime prevention strategy developed by the U.S. Department of Justice for targeting neighborhoods with high incidence of violent crime and drug usage.
The coalition’s strategic prevention framework involves all 12 sectors of the community in a close partnership to address issues within the community through intervention, prevention and education.
Since its inception, the coalition has accrued more than $1.3 million in grant funds for Franklin County to educate and reduce substance abuse and violence in the community.
The coalition has worked closely with local law enforcement to develop several community level policy and law changes that include Stop Meth Now ordinances making Pseudoephedrine available by prescription only countywide, drug disposal program adopted by all law enforcement agencies in the county, standardized fines and penalties for local beer boards, ID scans for all alcohol sales, and all new employees of the school system are drug tested upon hire.
Winchester Police Chief Dennis Young explains how the Prevention Coalition has helped the community through its partnerships.
“We implemented a Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) program for troubled teens that go through our juvenile court system to give them the ability to make better decisions in life, and works closely in support of the 12th Judicial District Drug Court Program,” he said. “We also started the first local drug take back program in the state removing hundreds of pounds of prescription drugs annually from the streets.
“We have sponsored multiple Town Hall meetings educating the public on the dangers facing our youth with recent trends in crime involving drugs, internet safety, and human trafficking.”
Young says the list of accomplishments goes on to include the sponsorship of drug free entertainment events for community youth, implementation of policy change strategies against synthetic drugs being sold locally, that lead to the implementation of a state law banning these new dangerous drugs.
“We’ve conducted medical forums for health care professionals in our county on drug diversion training, implemented multicounty strategy to develop narcotic and alcoholic anonymous in all our surrounding counties, and most recently the Stop Meth Now Campaign started here locally took roots and went across this state causing the Tennessee State Legislature to go into session with intent on changing the methamphetamine precursor laws in this state,” he said.
During the Finance Committee meeting, county officials praised the work of the Franklin County Prevention Coalition agreeing that the program is worthwhile, but some wanted to know if the cities would also be willing to help with funding for the program.
Franklin County Mayor Richard Stewart asked Curtis to approach the cities in the county to see if they would be willing to assist the county with the costs of keeping the coalition fully functional. Curtis agreed to meet with city officials and to return with another request for the county once the extent to which the cities will help is known.
The coalition has provided much needed community programs and assistance in its eight years of operation. Through the expertise of Director Tabatha Curtis the coalition acquired multiple federal and state grants that sustained the operation of the coalition and assisted area law enforcement in paying for overtime and equipment, as well as providing training and other services for various sectors of the community.
Chief Dennis Young said that the coalition is one of the community’s best assets and is recognized across the state for its success.
“The Franklin County Prevention Coalition is not only one of the greatest assets available in our community, it is our community,” he said. “Our coalition is recognized as one of the most active and productive coalitions in the State of Tennessee in reducing underage alcohol and drug usage and crime reduction in the community.
“Since implementation, the crime rate in Winchester has dropped 47%, methamphetamine production is down 70 percent, underage alcohol and drug usage has dropped, and we have seen strengthened families through improving parenting skills and reducing recidivism rates among juvenile offenders giving those juveniles a chance at a productive future.”
Young says it has been a pleasure to work with the coalition and that he looks forward to their continued success.
“We are presently working on strategies to combat the prescription drug diversion problem we are experiencing in the community,” he said. “Together we can make a difference, all we have to do is try.”
Director Tabatha Curtis is expected to approach city leaders to seek assistance with funding the program before returning to the county with an official request.
Individuals who have been touched by programs implemented through the coalition, and community members who wish to see the programs continued are encouraged to contact their representatives to show their support for the Franklin County Prevention Coalition’s work in the community.