La Crosse County utilizing grant to reduce youth substance use

Local News

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU/WLAX) – La Crosse County is the beneficiary of a grant designed to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol by youths in the community.

According to the 2019 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16.5% of high school students reported having their first drink of alcohol before the age of 13.

In addition, 29.8% of students said they had at least one drink of alcohol during the 30 days before taking the survey.

In La Crosse County, the number of high school students having a drink within the past 30 days was 21%, an increase from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Rita Von Haden, a prevention specialist with the Coulee Recovery Center, said those substance use trends have continued since those numbers were reported.

“We do see quite a bit with alcohol, and unfortunately we’re hearing more about youth with marijuana,” Von Haden said. “We’re doing everything we possibly can to try to target it.”

Different organizations in the county are working to reduce those numbers because of the impacts drugs and alcohol can have on long-term development.

“It can rewire the way the brain works,” Von Haden said. “As I tell kids, we can’t ice it, we can’t rest it, relax it, then a few days it’s better, it’s permanently changed.”

That’s why La Crosse County will be using a $625,000 grant to address youth substance use.

The Drug-Free Communities grant was awarded to the county by the CDC’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

County Health Educator Judi Zabel says strategies are being developed on the best ways to utilize the funds.

“You never want to do things to youth, you want to do it with them, so we want to build a youth coalition that centers around alcohol and marijuana prevention,” Zabel detailed.

The grant is an annual award of $125,000 and can be renewed after five years.

The county will also be working with the Alliance to HEAL Primary Prevention Workgroup to coordinate activities through the grant.

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