Youth Council among recipients of statewide grant

New Futures, a statewide advocacy agency working to reduce underage alcohol problems and increase access to treatment, has awarded close to $1 million in grants, including one to the Youth Council in Nashua.

In all, eight organizations will receive money to develop or improve programs that target adolescents with alcohol and other drug problems. The grants, announced Wednesday, will support New Futures’ Adolescent Treatment Initiative, funded through a $5 million gift from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

New Futures could not specify the exact amount of the grant to the Youth Council.

The Youth Council’s proposal was one of 19 from 14 groups and is aimed at enhancing the way the agency identifies, recruits, and treats adolescents with alcohol and other drug problems.

The goal of the grants is to improve the statewide system by linking helping agencies, sharing resources, and making available the best services for adolescents in every New Hampshire community.

“We want the total to equal more than the sum of its parts,” said Joe Diament, director of the Adolescent Treatment Initiative at New Futures.

Betsy Abrahams, executive director of the Youth Council, said the grant allows her agency to develop “a comprehensive system with several New Hampshire partners.”

“We deliver our best practices programs already,” Abrahams said. “But these funds will allow us to step out of the trenches of daily operation and scrutinize and adapt to better serve area teens with alcohol and other drug problems and their families.”

Abrahams said Nashua-area parents often don’t know about the Youth Council and miss the opportunity to get help for teenagers who need it.

Other groups that will receive New Futures grants are Dartmouth Hitchcock/Plymouth Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in Plymouth; Phoenix House in Keene; West Central Mental Health in Lebanon and Claremont; Child and Family Services in Laconia; and Familystrength in Berlin and Gorham. In addition, Jusiceworks’ 20 Below Program in Lebanon and Claremont and Odyssey House’s Recovery School on the Seacoast will receive funding.

A team of local, state, and national experts in the field of alcohol and other drug problems reviewed the applications.

In January, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation made a $5 million gift to New Futures, saying the grant, $1 million a year for five years, would allow the two agencies to collaborate on an effort to build a statewide system of programs for adolescents.

The award addresses what experts say is a steadily growing incidence of adolescent drinking and use of other drugs in the state during a time when treatment resources have become severely limited.

According to a state-conducted Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly one-third of the state’s high school students surveyed had five or more drinks of alcohol within a couple of hours on one or more of the 30 days prior to the survey. The survey also showed an increase in drug abuse. Since 1995, it revealed, the percentage of students using marijuana for the first time before the age of 13 had doubled. The number of students using cocaine one or more times also doubled.

At the same time, the survey pointed out, only 3 percent of adolescents between 12 and 17 receive treatment for alcohol and other drug problems.