A newly formed community group hopes they can make a difference in Soundview.
Local residents and representatives from community-based organizations came together on May 26 for the first meeting of the Soundview Community Drug Free Coalition.
The formation of the coalition was initiated by the Soundview Residents Council, which will apply to be part of the federal Drug-Free Communities Support Program, which provides grants to eligible coalitions of $125,000 per year for five years, renewable for five more.
The program’s mission is reducing the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription and other drugs among youth, grades 6 through 12.
A grant, if secured, would fund communication campaigns, workshops, and other efforts to address the culture of drugs in the community.
But in order to apply and receive a grant in 2016, the coalition must be established for six months with members from 12 community sectors, meet regularly and develop a plan for the funding’s use. The coalition also must identify matching funds for the grant, although in-kind donations can be included.
The mix of members must include representatives from the sectors of youth, parent, business, media, school, youth-serving organization, law enforcement, religious/fraternal organization, civic/volunteer group, healthcare professional, governmental agency with expertise in substance abuse and other organization involved in reducing substance abuse.
Participating organizations include Urban health Plan, Jobs Plus Goodwill, Leake and Watts, Odyssey House, Bronx Connect, Councilwoman Annabel Palma’s office and NYPD PSA 8, among others. The Bronx Times Reporter is participating in the coalition as the media partner.
In order to be successful, coalition members need to learn about the various issues drug issues affecting youth, such as the use of new powdered alcohol or their access to relatives’ prescription drugs, and then develop communication campaigns and workshops to address those issues, said coalition facilitator Dr. Jose Ramirez, who is guiding the group’s process.
The goal is to support youth and provide them with guidance, while creating an unfriendly environment for drugs, said Ramirez, emphasizing that the coalition needs to be in it for the long haul.
“You can’t beat this drum once and expect the problem to go away,” said Ramirez.
Soundview Residents Council president Anne Johnson recognizes the challenges the coalition will face in its mission.
“I know we’ll never get all the drugs out of the community, but hopefully we can get some,” said Johnson. “We’ll let them know we’re not going to take it, we’re not going to put up with it.”
She hopes that as the coalition takes off, more local organizations, community residents, and neighboring housing projects will want to get involved.
Members of the Soundview Residents Council said they felt energized by the first meeting, seeing other organizations come together to address the issue.
“We feel like we’re going to do something that matters,” said Maxine Rice.