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home : news : news Tuesday, October 13, 2015

10/5/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Funding drought sparking changes at Gateway ImpACT Coalition

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

It's a time of change at the Gateway ImpACT Coalition, and director Kristin Huisenga is seeking community input to determine the future direction of the substance abuse prevention organization.

The $125,000 Drug Free Communities Support Program grant that funded the coalition for the last 10 years ended Sept. 29, leading to a re-evaluation of the group's mission and goals.

"That grant is something you're not able to re-apply for. There's no additional funding," Huisenga explained.

The organization still has funds remaining from this year's grant allocation and has requested a four-month extension, but the request is in limbo due to the ongoing federal shutdown.

Meanwhile, members are looking at what can be done to sustain the coalition long term without the grant money that funded its operations over the last decade.

Gateway ImpACT Coalition, which falls under the umbrella of the Clinton Substance Abuse Council, began 10 years ago as the Clinton County meth reduction coalition.

After successes in the fight against methamphetamine, the coalition in recent years has focused its efforts on prescription drug abuse and has evolved into two working groups, Community Action Against Drugs (CAAD) and Marijuana and Underage Drinking (MUD).

Those groups and their sister organizations in DeWitt and Camanche, Community Alliance Against Substance Abuse (CAASA) and the Caring Community Coalition of Camanche (4C) all are tied to the parent organization Clinton Substance Abuse Council (CSAC).

CSAC is funded through a federal Justice Assistance Grant of $18,000, with local matching funds coming from one-time grants from the United Way and St. Paul Lutheran Church. The funds primarily are used to cover salary costs.

The grant that ended in September directly affects the Gateway ImpACT Coalition but won't affect CSAC's other programs, Husinega said.

Whatever happens next, Huisenga says CSAC will continue its overall mission to combat substance abuse in Clinton County, but the future of the Gateway ImpACT Coalition itself is in question.

"We're re-evaluating the coalition. We created action plans for the grant six years ago that shaped our direction. Now we're planning again," Huisenga said.

"We're prioritizing what are the issues for our community and then developing a plan," she said.

The coalition brought in Sgt. Chris Cole of the Iowa National Guard Counterdrug Task Force for consulting and technical assistance to help identify community needs and what can be done to sustain the coalition in the future.

Huisenga said it's important to note the coalition already has cut costs through attrition. Former director Derek Clark left CSAC in January for other opportunities. Coalition coordinator Jessica Leal resigned in April after a separate grant expired, and coordinator Crystal Lawburgh resigned Oct. 3 after her husband took a job in Indiana.

During two sustainability planning sessions Cole led in September, coalition members agreed it's important to sustain the group because it is a non-biased, non-government agency that is based on community input, it brings together partners from various sectors to collaborate, is proactive rather than reactive and is a good way to broadcast information to the community.

"We asked the question, if we don't do it, who will? No one. We are unique and valuable to the community because we're the only ones who do that," Huisenga said.

Moving forward, coalition members are looking for ways to transfer duties from CSAC staff to volunteers to ensure it can continue its mission without grant funding.

Huisenga said the group is appointing more co-chairs and asking volunteers to take more active roles and "take ownership" in the prevention effort.

"So even if we went away, hopefully those things would continue because the community has stepped up to support them," she said.

Huisenga said a good example is the prescription drug drop boxes installed at area police departments. The drop-box program replaced CSAC's annual medication disposal event, and law enforcement has taken over administration of the program, freeing up CSAC's resources for other efforts.

Huisenga said Gateway ImpACT is applying for additional grant funding, including for an underage drinking program, but the main focus is on developing a community plan with three or four priorities for the coalition to work on.

One issue members face is finding solid data to support the anecdotal reports of what is happening with substance abuse in the community.

Coalition members have been asked to identify additional data that can be used to support Gateway ImpACT 's grant applications, such as collecting information from social service providers who ask clients about their substance abuse history.

The next big step in the process is a stakeholder summit to identify substance abuse and mental health priorities in Clinton County. The "Partnering for Progress Summit" will be held Wednesday, Oct. 9, 8-11:30 a.m. in the cafeteria at the Clinton County administration building.

"Basically we're trying to get the best picture possible of what the community thinks is a problem and have the data to back it up," Huisenga said.

The summit is open to the community but participants are asked to register with CSAC in advance. Huisenga said she hopes to have representation from all sectors in the county affected by substance abuse and mental health issues.

"Anyone who is affected by mental health or substance issues is invited and should consider attending," Huisenga said.

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