HANNIBAL | The Hannibal Alliance for Youth Success was awarded a $25,000 grant Thursday morning from the United Way of the Mark Twain Area to fund an initiative to prevent drug use among students.
In May 2019, Continental Cement and Green America Recycling of Hannibal has a direct economic impact that eventually causes employers to have trouble filling jobs because applicants cannot pass drug tests,” said Justin Gibbons, incoming 2020-21 president for United Way of the Mark Twain Area. “These are the types of initiatives that United Way can help leverage to address significant community issues. We are grateful for Continental's leadership and support.”
Denise Damron, executive director of the United Way of the Mark Twain Area, said the number of children in foster care has seen a dramatic increase due to parents using drugs. The justice system is overwhelmed withdrug-related issues.
For instance, the Marion County prosecuting attorney's office says that it has filed 708 charges for substance- abuse cases over last 12 months, and the numbers keep growing.
“Those numbers don't reflect what I consider drug-fueled crimes such as assault, robbery, stealing, property damage, burglary,” said Luke Bryant, Marion County prosecuting attorney. “Often times an addict will commit crimes to support their drug habits. I don't have an accurate estimate of what percentage of the overall caseload would be considered drug fueled but I would guess it's a pretty large percentage.”
Matt Helm, plant manager for Continental Cement and Green American Recycling, approached the United Way last year to discuss how the company could combat the drug issue impacting Northeast Missouri by supporting prevention efforts.
“The future of the community continues to be negatively impacted by the growing use of drugs,” said Matt Helms, then plant manager at Continental Cement at a press conference in May announcing the gift. “At Continental Cement and Green America Recycling, we recognize the great people and organizations in our community that are battling this problem, and we want to do our part in this fight through funding a new project focused on preventing young people — the next generation—from making the choice to use drugs.”
In July, United Way opened a special grant application for area nonprofit organizations to apply for the funding to bring a youth focused substance abuse prevention program to the community. A special committee reviewed the applications and interviewed leadership from organizations submitting proposals about the programs they were proposing.
Damron said that the Hannibal Alliance for Youth Success application to receive the funding to launch the Trauma-Informed Program for Schools (TIPS) in Northeast Missouri was a clear winner. “Their application cited studies from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network showing the direct correlation between substance abuse in adulthood and experiencing trauma in childhood,” Damron said. “In their proposal, they shared how they would utilize the funding to provide trauma awareness training and education to regional educators. Teachers and other school personnel would learn how to identify students who are experiencing traumatic circumstances.”
Damron said six area school districts – each represented at the presentation – will participate in the program.
“We are thrilled that so many schools are initially interested and recognize the need for this program,” Damron said.