RUMFORD — The River Valley Rising, a project of River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition, has been awarded a $125,000 Drug-Free Communities Support Program Continuation grant.

“We’re thrilled we got the grant.” Executive Director Allie Burke said. “It’s been a long wait. We submitted the grant back in July and was told we may not hear till November. So this was a nice treat.”

She said this was a “very competitive” grant process.

“SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Healthy Services Administration) only awarded 150 new and continuing funds for 2019-2020 for the country. Maine was only awarded two for the whole state.”

Burke said RVHCC was the only coalition awarded a continuation grant as they had moved into year six of a five-year grant, just completing their first five years on Sept. 29.

Had they not won this grant, she admitted that “funding would have been tight and we would have had to scale back on some of our projects.”

Asked about factors in winning the grant, Burke said they have a strong coalition that is working together to address youth substance use disorder.

“Our coalition members represent many sectors of our community — faith, mental health, schools, community members, hospital, law enforcement, etc.,” she said. “It’s a community-wide issue and we need all representatives at the table to address marijuana, alcohol, prescription misuse and vaping.”

The grant was issued by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in cooperation with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Burke said they’re always working for grant money, which currently includes small grants like the Clif Bar grant and to the Bingham Foundation.

She said RVHCC has been around since 1997.

“So while Substance Use Prevention is one of our main focus, it’s not the only issue we address,” Burke said. We have been working with many of partners to address food insecurity and nutrition, programming for senior elderly (senior gathering), and we look forward to working with the school on the Community Meal Van next summer.”

Burke said the grant will assist the coalition to achieve its goal by implementing several strategies:

• Increase coalition building and capacity;

• Increase community awareness and address community norms;

• Expand parental knowledge and monitoring;

• Improve consistency in policies and laws, school enforcement;

• Increase youth’s perception of risk & harm from marijuana use;

• Decrease youth’s lifetime use of electronic vapor products.

The coalition serves Rumford and the Greater River Valley Region, a community of 13,629 residents.

“We are so thankful for our partners and for the all positive support we have received,” Burke said. “We look forward to working and supporting our partners, families and youth in helping to keep River Valley healthy and safe for future generations.”

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