Non-profit awarded grant to tackle drug problem with Madison County students

ANDERSON, Ind. – A new classroom session will take place in some Madison County schools in the upcoming school year, aimed to keep young students from ever doing drugs.

Intersect was awarded a $90,000 grant through the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration's (FSSA) Division of Mental Health and Addiction. The office gave out three grants in the state, with programs that come up with new and innovative approaches to preventing Hoosiers from abusing drugs.

Intersect's executive director, Karesa Knight-Wilkerson, will use the funds to put four contracted instructors in possibly all the public, private and charter schools across Madison County. The instructors will run six or eight classroom sessions where they teach a curriculum to fourth, seventh and ninth graders about the dangers of drugs.

Knight-Wilkerson said the three selected grades not only target each kind of school building, but specifically in the two older grades, can be beneficial as students are seeing new faces and dealing with new influences.

"In Anderson and Pendleton, for example, they're coming from multiple elementary schools into one middle school," said Knight-Wilkerson. "So, they're meeting kids they've never interacted with before."

The program is still being fine-tuned to have instructors prepared when school begins in August. Previous studies show drug usage is already there.

Students across the county took part in the Indiana Youth Survey last year. It asked students, between seventh and 12 grades, about drug usage over the last 30 days before the questions.

Students said they had used prescription drugs that were prescribed to others and used over-the-counter medicine to get high, both opioid-related issues that the state and many others are tackling to save lives.

The highest percentage of students who had used prescription drugs was 11th graders at 4.1 percent.

Eighth graders had the highest usage rate of using OTC medicine at 5.5 percent.

The drugs used most often were alcohol, where more than 28 percent of seniors admitted they had drank over the last month, followed by electronic vapor products at 24 percent of seniors. Marijuana was third with 17.7 percent of seniors.

"It used to be that schools were bombarded with ISTEP that they didn't have time," said Knight-Wilkerson. "We totally understand that but now they're seeing their youth are using and they have to do more to help with that."

The grant won't cover every fourth, seventh and ninth grade class in the county. Intersect will be meeting with district superintendents and school boards over the next month to discuss running the program in their classes.

The grant can be renewed for a second year. If the program produces results, it could expand to allow for more instructors in more classrooms and eventually become a program to use across the state.

Intersect provides a variety of services to curb drug usage. It provides lock boxes for adults to secure medications, works to strengthen Indiana's smoke free air law, offers stress management and communication programs for employers and employees, and help families better communicate.

Thursday night, the organization led a conversation on tobacco usage at the Anderson Impact Center to discuss tobacco and nicotine ads and product placement.