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Marion County schools to receive support for substance use prevention programs in the wake of the opioid crisis

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

(Indianapolis, Indiana) As Indiana continues to be hard hit by the opioid crisis, now a national public health emergency, today the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation unveiled Prevention Matters, a $12 million grant initiative to support Marion County schools over the next three years in an effort to reduce students’ substance use.

Through Prevention Matters, the Fairbanks Foundation will provide grant funding and technical assistance to public and private K-12 schools in Marion County to help them select and implement prevention programs that have been demonstrated to reduce substance use across a variety of substances, including alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription drugs and others. What’s more, these programs are shown to equip students with skills that help improve academic achievement, attendance, and classroom behavior, and reduce bullying and violence.

For example, several studies of one school-based program, LifeSkills Training, find that students who participated in the program were 28 percent less likely to smoke after a six-year follow-up and 66 percent less likely to use marijuana after a three-year follow-up, relative to similar students who did not participate in the program. Long-term impacts have also been shown for illicit drug use, including use of narcotics like heroin and misuse of prescription drugs. In addition, these studies find effects on behaviors beyond substance use—like a 32 percent drop in delinquency and a 26 percent drop in fighting in a three-month follow-up.

According to a recent survey, only 11 percent of Marion County schools report using this type of evidence-based prevention program. Of the schools that do not have evidence-based programs in place, many cited insufficient time during the school day and lack of funding as key barriers to implementation. Prevention Matters aims to equip school leaders with the funding and technical assistance they need to identify the programs that will be most effective in their school buildings and develop a plan for implementation.

“Principals, teachers and other educators care deeply about their students, but they have a lot on their plates. They need support finding the programs that best meet their students’ needs and putting them to work in the classroom,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “By tapping into the wealth of existing proven curricula, school leaders can feel confident knowing the programs they select will work when implemented as designed.”

Through Prevention Matters, the Foundation will award up to $12 million over the next three years in funding and technical assistance to Marion County schools that meet eligibility criteria. All Marion County public (traditional, charter and innovation network) and accredited private K-12 schools are encouraged to apply for a Prevention Matters grant at

Grants will be awarded in two stages:

Planning Grants: Marion County schools can apply for a Prevention Matters planning grant to identify and plan for an evidence-based prevention program in their schools. Grants will range from less than $15,000 to $40,000. This stage is non-competitive, meaning that all schools that meet eligibility criteria and apply by February 16, 2018, will receive a planning grant in March 2018.

Implementation Grants: Marion County schools can apply for three years of Prevention Matters funding to implement their plan for an evidence-based prevention program. This stage is competitive, meaning that grants will be awarded selectively to schools that develop a comprehensive and realistic plan to implement prevention programs, and sustain these programs long-term. Applications are due by May 25, 2018, and grants will be awarded in July 2018.

“Substance use is hurting children, adults, families and communities in Indianapolis and across the state,” said Jim McClelland, Executive Director for Drug Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement for the State of Indiana. “Schools can play an important role in the fight against substance use by providing evidence-based prevention programs to students. Prevention Matters will connect schools to the proven resources they need to help address substance use and put their students on a path for success in school and beyond.”

Prevention Matters is unveiled at a time in which an adult in Indiana is now more likely to die from a drug overdose than a car accident. And tobacco use continues to pose a fatal challenge: 11,000 Hoosiers die each year from a smoking-related illness, and an estimated 151,000 Indiana children who are now under the age of 18 will ultimately die prematurely from smoking. Use of other substances, including marijuana and methamphetamines, is also of concern.

Research shows that substance use often begins in early adolescence and worsens through high school. Among seniors at Central Indiana high schools, 11 percent report smoking cigarettes, 23 percent report using e-cigarettes, 33 percent report drinking alcohol, 20 percent report using marijuana and five percent report misusing prescription drugs in the past 30 days. And while substance use among students peaks in high school, many begin using drugs as early as middle school. In fact, among Central Indiana 8th graders, more than 10 percent report drinking alcohol and five percent using marijuana in the past 30 days.

In addition to the tragic loss of human life, tobacco use and opioid misuse are also taking a financial toll on the state. Annually, tobacco use costs Indiana $7.6 billion, and the opioid epidemic costs the state an additional $1.5 billion each year.

“The urgency of the substance use crisis demands tried-and-true solutions that can be brought to scale in all schools across Marion County,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. “Effective school-based prevention programs deliver powerful -- even life-saving -- messages to students at a critical time in their development, helping to avoid addiction before it begins. The result is engaged and resilient children, overall safer schools, and a brighter future for our community.”

Prevention Matters is the latest effort led by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation to fulfill its two primary Health- related goals: to reduce the rate of tobacco use, and to reduce the rate of opioid use disorder in Indianapolis.

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