NEW Keepin' It Real With Renae: Economic downfall in city, county, state budgets

Many programs that depend on funding from the city, county or the state are losing funding in this upcoming year; especially in the area of substance abuse prevention.

However, the community of West Seattle is lucky we have the Southwest Healthy Youth Partnership, which receives funding from a federal grant administered by the Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse (DASA). The goal of the grant and the Southwest Healthy Youth Partnership is to initiate community-level change to reduce alcohol use by underage drinkers.

The Strategic Prevention Framework-State Incentive Grant will be funded through summer of 2010, and we are currently seeking additional funding to continue the work we have started. Mayor Greg Nickels is also providing additional funding for three communities in Seattle to address gang violence to further support our community's prevention needs.

The Southwest Healthy Youth Partnership was established in May 2006 in response to higher than average use among Madison Middle School eighth graders. In 2006, 23 percent of 8th graders acknowledged using alcohol within a 30-day period on the Healthy Youth Survey.

Youth who drink are much more likely to have problems with violence, sexual assault, school failure, drinking and driving. The list goes on, and on.

While West Seattle has its problems, we also are known for our strong parent involvement in schools, which was evidenced recently by the comments and show of support parents have demonstrated when it was announced that school closures were likely. What I'm hoping for in the New Year is to capitalize on that strong community support and grow the involvement in the Partnership.

Our plans for 2009 include: parent education and awareness raising projects; acknowledging and rewarding alcohol retailers who keep alcohol out of the hands of youth; involving youth and alcohol retailers in projects to reduce youth access to alcohol and a campaign that reminds youth that, while teen use is high than we'd like, it's still not the norm among middle and high school students to drink. For our community to raise the healthiest kids we need strong support from schools, families, faith communities, social service organizations, businesses, law enforcement, health care providers and more.

Please, West Seattle, see the coming year as your opportunity to take advantage of the funds that we are blessed to still have and volunteer your time to help raise healthy, drug and alcohol-free kids.

For more information on how you can be involved contact Renae T. Gaines, SPF-SIG Community Coordinator at (206) 396-2945 or email rtgaines@seattleschools.org.

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