$245,000 of pot revenue to fight drug abuse

Island County hopes it can support all of the region’s at-risk teens with $245,000 in state tax revenue from marijuana sales.

The Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, or DBHR, allocated the money to Island County for use in anti-drug and mental-health services in public schools.

Specifically, the $245,000 will be spent on a mentorship program, a family therapist and a student support advocate.

Jackie Henderson, director of Island County Human Services, said planning how to use the funds proved to be a complex process, noting that the county wanted to ensure the money’s effective use, especially since it must be spent by March 31, 2018.

“We’re doing the best we can to spend it in the best way we can,” Henderson told the commissioners during a meeting earlier this year.

Lynda Richards, assistant director of Island County Human Services, said the situation’s complexity was deepened by the DBHR’s stipulations that the money’s use be “targeted very specifically.”

These targets include selections from a list of “certain evidence-based programs” that center “around treatment at the middle-school and high-school levels to keep students from using drugs.” Henderson said.

DBHR-approved programs the County will fund include cognitive behavioral therapy, brief intervention, motivational enhancement therapy, motivational interviewing and functional family therapy.

Commissioner Jill Johnson urged Henderson’s team to find a way to reach a diverse audience of kids with these programs, including kids who dropped out.

“We need to reach those who have fallen through the cracks — those are the ones we need to reach,” Johnson said.

Following Johnson’s advice, county officials targeted a way to reach all the region’s teens affected by drug abuse and mental illness.

“We are using part of the funds to provide an evidence-based community mentoring program and contracting with Big Brothers Big Sisters,” Richards said in an email. “We are also funding a portion of the functional family therapist in the family treatment court, and hiring a student support advocate to work with at-risk youth within the alternative schools and juvenile detention program.”

Island County is reaching out to its neighboring communities for a partnership of sorts, “working with Snohomish County to co-fund a (student support advocate) at Stanwood-Camano High school to serve youth in Camano,” Richards said.

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