LA CRESCENTA — The Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition on Tuesday was awarded a major federal grant that will total $625,000 over the next five years as they work to thwart substance abuse among local teens.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy selected the coalition and 168 other groups to receive the funding after determining they had show "significant reductions" in substance abuse over a 30-day period for teenagers, said the agency's spokesman, Daren Briscoe.
"They have demonstrated their usefulness and results in helping to reduce youth substance use," he said of the groups.
The coalition will get $125,000 every year for five years, with the first check issued Sept. 30, he said.
To receive the grant, the coalition had to supply the agency with extensive data on drugs and alcohol, Briscoe said.
The coalition also had to prove that they had been working at least six months on reducing youth substance abuse, that they represented 12 different community groups, had developed a long-term plan for reducing youth substance abuse and commit to participating in a national evaluation, he added.
With more than 500 applicants, Briscoe said the selection process was highly competitive.
"The idea behind funding these coalitions is that it's at the local level were the real solutions are going to emerge and we do what we can to support them through grants like this," he said.
In creating the grant application, coalition president Howard Hakes said they had to demonstrate that the community — including police, the Glendale Unified School District, local churches, Crescenta Valley Town Council and hospitals — was working together on the issue.
"We kind of showed a community intact that with budget cuts and everything that is going on, we were looking to implement some programs to help the kids of our community," he said.
Having the Obama administration recognize the Crescenta Valley and its community's efforts from other cities nationwide demonstrated that there was an emerging drug problem, Glendale Police Chief Ron De Pompa said.
"I am so pleased and proud of their efforts because it wasn't an easy road to follow," he said. "Certainly along the way, they encountered denial and even some degree of resentment for going down that path, but yet these community leaders believed in the information that our police officers were generating and they made an accurate assessment to the potential risk to the community and the community's youth and they decided to do something about it."
After noticing a rise in drug and alcohol use among teens in North Glendale and La Crescenta, Glendale Police Officer Matt Zakarian decided to create the coalition with fellow Officer Joe Allen and several community members.
The coalition grew larger through monthly community meetings that featured various speakers at Crescenta Valley High School to help parents deal with teen drug and alcohol issues, Zakarian said.
Kim Mattersteig, a member of the coalition and Crescenta Valley Town Council, is hoping the funding will pay for more community forums and afterschool activities for teens.
"The goal is keeping the kids safe and keeping these substances out of their hands," she said.