Riverhead CAP receives grant funding through Suffolk County opioid settlement

Two new grant funding sources will help the Riverhead Community Awareness Program further its youth substance abuse and mental health prevention programs, the organization announced last week.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will provide $375,000 per year for five years through the “Partnership for Success” (PFS) grant. The second grant will come from Suffolk County opioid settlement funds and will provide $225,000 a year for three years, according to a press release.

“The purpose of the PFS grant is to create sustainable prevention and early intervention services in Riverhead,” Felicia Scocozza, CAP’s executive director, said in a statement. “We know that the three most important environments affecting young people’s development are families, school and communities. This funding will allow us to address all three with a strategic approach.”

Riverhead’s CAP is one of nine community organizations nationwide to receive funding through the PFS grant, which focuses on preventing and reducing substance misuse through community programs.

The organization works with the Riverhead Central School District, Riverhead Police Department, Northwell Health and the Suffolk County Office of Health Education to strengthen prevention efforts throughout the school district and community.

Riverhead School District Superintendent Augustine Tornatore applauded the organization for their work in the district. “We deeply value our partnership with CAP, and the services they provide have a markedly positive influence on our students and the entire community,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to all of the exceptional programs they will put this funding toward.”

CAP is also one of 34 organizations to receive monetary support through the first round of county opioid settlement funds.

In January, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced CAP as one of the organizations set to receive funding as part of a multi-million dollar settlement against pharmaceuticals that manufactured and distributed opioids as the crisis loomed on Long Island and around the nation.

The county has allocated around $25 million for organizations to curb opioid addiction through education. Officials have estimated that settlements could total $180 million over the next two decades.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski helped support CAP’s application to receive funding through the opioid settlement.

“These awards reflect the organization’s effectiveness in the schools and their importance to the entire town,” Mr. Krupski said in a statement. “I am gratified these grants will help CAP continue their important work in preventing drug abuse and addiction in young people living in the Riverhead community.”

According to Ms. Scocozza, CAP has been proactive in reducing the availability of prescription medications and opioids in the community.

In 2014, CAP launched a medication take-back initiative as part of a decade-long federal Drug-Free Communities Program grant, which is set to end at the end of this year. Through that program, known as the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth, more than 11,000 pounds of medication were collected, preventing potential abuse and overdoses.

Ms. Scocozza said the funding streams will help CAP increase programming within Riverhead schools, provide community and retailer education about safe adult marijuana storage, hold trainings in Screenings, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) alongside Northwell Health, increase parent outreach and participation, as well as bilingual support and services.

While CAP officials say research indicates that most youth who engage in substance use will not develop substance use disorders, studies show that there is a link between early initiation of alcohol and marijuana use and opioid misuse in young adulthood. 

A policy brief by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute notes that the development of such substance use disorders is “often preceded by a variety of other problems including academic failure, antisocial behavior, anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress” and that early intervention programs are useful in prevention.

Programs such as SBIRT and mental health first aid training, which CAP is already providing under a SAMHSA grant, are also effective tools against substance abuse, according to the policy brief.

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