Several counties under Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 11 p.m.

$12 million in grants to be awarded to Marion County schools for drug abuse prevention

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – On Tuesday, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation announced a grant initiative that would bring drug prevention programs to schools in Marion County.

The program called Prevention Matters would give $12 million to public and private schools in the county to use over the next three years to create and implement education related to substance abuse prevention.

"What if we could prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place?" asked Richard M. Fairbanks, Foundation President and CEO of Claire Fiddian-Green.

The question is being asked across the state as more Hoosiers die from drug abuse. Fiddian-Green said statistics show an adult in Indiana is more likely to die from a drug overdose than a car accident. According to the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, research shows substance abuse often begins "in early adolescence and worsens through high school."

The Prevention Matters program would bring curriculum that's designed to fit a school’s specific needs. It includes programs for students as young as middle-school age.

"It’s gonna be a little lighter of a message when they’re younger and then as they become more mature, it becomes more specific for how to avoid using or reduce the use of substances in the first place," explained Fiddian-Green.

The programs would be part of an average school day required for students and not an extra-curricular activity.

"It’s not just a one hour convocation, you’re in, you’re out, and you forget about it. It’s actually ongoing classwork that the students are exposed to, so the best ones are actually incorporated into the health or the science curriculum," Fiddian-Green said.

Each program is considered evidence-based, meaning there's a proven track record of success. The programs go beyond just drugs. Studies found a 32 percent drop in delinquency and a 26 percent drop in fighting in schools after a three-month follow-up.

"A lot of these proven programs help with goal setting and good decision making and that naturally leads not only to students avoiding the use of substances like heroin, like alcohol, like tobacco, but also improves academic outcomes and it can improved behavior in the classroom," said Fiddian-Green.

Schools can apply to first receive a planning grant. Any school in Marion County that applies could be directed to one of two education planning programs. Those grants range from $15,000 to $40,000. Educators would meet with planners to develop their own curriculum.

The second phase of the grant is the implementation phase. This competitive phase would put those initial plans into motion. They will be awarded to schools that qualify in July and those districts could put new drug prevention programs into place as early as next school year.

School districts also just discovered the news of the grant initiative Tuesday. Fiddian-Green said that was intentional, as to not give any school an advantage in securing grants. Districts like IPS said they are still reviewing the programs and what it would bring to students.