White House Gives Cecil County $125K Drug Prevention Grant; Over Half of $ Goes to Pay, Benefits for Program ‘Coordinator’

October 5, 2014

The White House has awarded $125,000 to Cecil County for programs aimed at preventing drug abuse, especially among youths. But more than half of the annual grant will go to pay salary and benefits for a co-coordinator of a newly-created “Cecil County Drug-Free Communities Coalition.”

The grant comes from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and is designed to promote community-based projects to prevent drug abuse. The initial one-year grant is expected to be renewed annually for five years, for a total of $625,000, according to Ken Collins, a local health department official and the special advisor on drug policy to County Executive Tari Moore.

While the grant proposal outlined seven broad areas for which the funds would be spent—including drug prevention and awareness training for parents and educators, “engaging new community members” and “developing and implementing a social norms campaign”—over half of the money will go to pay the salary and benefits of a co-coordinator who will be hired to administer the grant.

Collins said the grant proposal provided a $50,000 annual salary plus $14,000 for the new program coordinator’s benefits.

While the federal grant money goes directly to the Cecil County government, the funds are supposed to be dispensed on behalf of a new entity: “Cecil County Drug-Free Communities Coalition.” Collins said that the coalition was created last fall and primarily consists of the membership of the Local Management Board—which includes 20 members, such as officials of local departments dealing with social services, senior services, health and mental health programs and agencies.

Barbara Smith, co-coordinator of the Local Management Board, said that for purposes of obtaining the grant, a “coalition” had to be set up and hold meetings with minutes of those sessions. So the management board began devoting portions of its regular meetings to acting as the “coalition” with minutes recorded, she added.

Collins said that, with the announcement of the new grant on 10/1/14, the coalition will re-form itself soon as independent of the management board and will include some new members including a youth representative, parents, a “local media representative,” and representatives of various health, schools, and religious organizations, with a goal of having 18 members.

The White House included Cecil County on its list of “new grantees” that had not previously received funds under the “drug-free communities” program. Four other Maryland entities also received funds for the first time: Frostburg State University; the Garrett County health department; National African-American Drug Policy Coalition in Baltimore; and “Access to Wholistic and Productive Living, Inc.,” in Suitland.

It was the first time that Cecil County applied for such a grant, Collins said, after health officials attended a workshop last year on the program and were advised that it was a very competitive process and many applicants are rejected several times before winning a grant. “We were thrilled to get the grant on our first try,” Collins said.

(In the past, small communities on the Shore have received grants under the program, including “Partnership for a Drug-Free Dorchester (county)” and the Nehemia Coalition for Youth Development in Somerset County. The Garrett County Drug and Alcohol Council, in western Maryland, is also a past grant recipient.)

Collins said the key aspect of the new grant is that is focused exclusively on “prevention” of drug abuse. “Prevention has been underfunded” in the past, he added.

One key element will be a $10,000 component for special training for educators to recognize signs of potential drug abuse issues in their students so that they can refer them for appropriate counseling or prevention programs, he added. Community educational forums are also planned, at an estimated cost of $1,500.

Meanwhile, the “coalition” that will oversee the grant was a mystery to some key players in the county’s anti-drug efforts and there was no mention of it on the county health department or county government websites until the grant was announced.

County Councilor Diana Broomell (R-4), until recently a member of the county’s Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council that is supposed to review plans for anti-drug initiatives in the county, told Cecil Times “I’ve never heard if it before.” And her replacement as the County Council’s representative to the drug panel, Alan McCarthy (R-1) also told Cecil Times he had never been advised that such a “coalition” existed.

The county’s drug and alcohol council held its quarterly meeting a week ago and there was no discussion of the “Drug-Free Communities Coalition” or the grant application.

“Right now Ken and I have been taking the lead on this,” Smith said.

Collins said there may have been some “confusion” among key players in the county’s anti-drug efforts but that there had been discussions of seeking grant funds for various initiatives. He added that the “coalition” was a “separate group” from the drug and alcohol council and would operate independently, although he anticipated that the ‘coalition’ would “report out through the drug and alcohol council.”

The local health department identified seven areas on which the new federal funds would be spent, including “engaging new community members;” a “prevention plan” for youth, parents and community members; training for educators and others; a “prevention communication plan;” expanding current programs to prevent underage alcohol access and prescription drug take-back efforts; and “developing and implementing a social norms program.”

Cecil County has long had one of the worst drug overdose death rates in the state and the most recently available data—covering just the first quarter of 2014—showed 10 drug overdose deaths, especially due to heroin use. If that pace continues for the rest of this year, the county would be on track for its highest ever drug overdose death figure.

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES special report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2014/08/new-state-data-show-cecil-county-on-track-for-record-drug-overdose-deaths-this-year-heroin-deaths-rise-sharply/ ]

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7 Responses to White House Gives Cecil County $125K Drug Prevention Grant; Over Half of $ Goes to Pay, Benefits for Program ‘Coordinator’

  1. David Neff on October 5, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    So we get 125K in drug prevention money from the US Feds and half of it goes to salary and administration. No wonder this county is screwed!

  2. Roger on October 6, 2014 at 12:12 am

    I assume Cecil Executive Moore loves this “pennies from heaven” anti-drug grant to finance her hand picked “drug czar” Collins big salary. A study showed Moore and Collins results have failed. To date, their efforts have amounted to an increase in overdose deaths.

    In the future, I don’t think “rehabilitating” addicts at the luxurious Bracebridge Hall in Earleville will amount to anything other than another siphon of taxpayer money or possibly another epic disaster like the old Tome School. Executive Moore and drug addicts need to learn that going “cold turkey” from spending and respectively from drugs, offers a far better recovery for all concerned.

  3. Mary Warsizky on October 6, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I heard that the county executive, Mrs. Moore, was on vacation (again) overseas when this was announced. But I guess she knew all about it in advance, even if everyone else was kept in the dark. So much for the “transparency” in government she said she supported. So who will get the cushy job that will eat up most of this grant?

  4. Kelly Frost on October 6, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Wow! I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. This is blatant.

  5. John Bennett on October 8, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    I gather from the tone of the article that the blogger disagrees with the salary and benefits package for the administrator of the grant? What do you believe should be the salary/benefits package? Or do you believe either the Health Department or Cecil County Public Schools should assign staff to administer the grant?

    As a reference, I looked on the CCPS website but could not find a starting salary for a first year teacher with a B. A. as a comparison. However ballotpedia.org lists the starting salary as $43,662 plus benefits. Would you, or not, agree that whomever is hired to serve as administrator should have some experience with at-risk students? If so, should not that person be compensated for that experience?

    [Editor’s Note: The writer is the chairman of the Cecil County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council.]

    • Harold McCanick on October 16, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Mr. Bennett, do you believe almost 47K plus bennies for a 10 month teacher fresh out of college (not to mention a mentor for every couple teachers) is fair? You seem to have lost sight of the fact that these resources are taken from we the tax paying citizens.

  6. Connie on November 19, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    I can see the county wanting to help in the fight against drugs, however, why do we have those clinics? All they do is give out methadone, not counseling!

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