LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU / WLAX) – La Crosse County is the recipient of a grant aimed at preventing drug and alcohol use by community youth.
According to the 2019 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16.5% of high school students reported having had their first drink of alcohol before the age of 13.
In addition, 29.8% of students reported having had at least one drink of alcohol in the 30 days preceding the survey.
In La Crosse County, the number of high school students who had a drink in the past 30 days was 21%, an increase from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Rita Von Haden, prevention specialist at the Coulee Recovery Center, said these substance use trends have continued since these numbers were reported.
âWe see a lot of it with alcohol, and unfortunately we hear more about young people with marijuana,â Von Haden said. “We are doing everything we can to try to target him.”
Different county organizations are working to reduce these numbers because of the long-term development impacts drugs and alcohol can have.
âIt can reconnect the functioning of the brain,â said Von Haden. “As I tell the children, you can’t freeze it, you can’t rest it, relax it, then a few days it gets better, it’s definitely changed.”
That is why the County of La Crosse will use a grant of $ 625,000 to fight substance use among young people.
The Drug Free Communities grant was awarded to the county by the CDC’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.
County health educator Judi Zabel said strategies are being developed on how best to use the funds.
âYou never want to do things to young people, you want to do things with them, so we want to create a youth coalition focused on alcohol and marijuana prevention,â Zabel explained.
The grant is an annual scholarship of $ 125,000 and can be renewed after five years.
The county will also work with the Alliance to HEAL Primary Prevention Working Group to coordinate activities through the grant.