The Brazos Valley Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse recently received several grants worth about $1.22 million over five years from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The funds will support its school-based education programs and community coalitions designed to prevent underage alcohol and drug use, as well as substance abuse across all ages.
BVCASA staff members said in a Friday interview with The Eagle that the grant was the first in several years to help them conduct evidence-based curriculum education in elementary schools across the area. The funding will also assist middle school and high school programming, including their Vikings Kicking Out Tobacco (VKOT) program at Bryan High School, according to VKOT coordinator Alton “Tiger” Burton.
“The grants help us to provide a wide gamut of things that we offer,” Burton said. “Some of the grants will help us work in seven counties to provide K-12 education on anything from social norms to behaviors, discrimination, communication skills — it’s teaching kids a lot of things, as well as the dangers and the impacts of drugs and alcohol.”
Mary Mattingly, who works as BVCASA’s director of prevention services, said the programs for younger children focus less on direct conversation about substances and more on behavior and goal-setting.
“We talk to elementary kids about self-esteem, values, how to make good decisions and how to set goals,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly said some of the funding will also support BVCASA’s Prevention Resource Center (PRC), which she said serves 30 counties and provides services including annual needs assessments, tobacco compliance checks, training coordination and promoting drug use prevention messaging.
Sarah Sanchez, a public relations coordinator for the PRC, said that BVCASA’s work is to address alcohol and other substance abuse issues as a public health issue. Sanchez said her organization works to address environmental factors that may individuals’ reliance of substances, from family conditions.
“Something we say all the time is that substance use doesn’t just affect the person using the substance,” Sanchez said. “It affects everybody around them.”
Sanchez said that the “All-Star” middle school curriculum builds on some of the themes explored in the elementary school program, Too Good For Drugs, that BVCASA uses.
“I think starting at the elementary level is where it should be talked about first, because around age 11 or 12 is where you may see the first-time use of alcohol or tobacco or marijuana,” Sanchez said.
“These curricula build on each other,” Mattingly added. “You start with very elementary education — nothing to scare children, and no scare tactics are used.”
Sanchez, Mattingly and associate prevention specialist Bill Roberts said that the funding also supports BVCASA’s community coalition work. Roberts coordinates one such program at Blinn College. He said that the Blinn Community Coalition gives students opportunities to talk about prevention in settings that don’t align with that of a traditional classroom. He said he is proposing a group that meets twice monthly at Blinn and combines substance abuse prevention messages with enjoyable social activities.
Sanchez said that the coalitions, which also include VKOT at Bryan High and a Zero Tolerance Coalition at Hearne High School, “empower people to be engaged.”
“The funding will help people attend coalition meetings and to effectively implement the strategies they’ve come up with to help educate the community about the prevention of substances,” she said.
“Ultimately, the money will help us to be able to promote a healthier community,” Burton said. “Essentially, that’s why we’re all doing the work that we do at BVCASA. We want our community to be healthy and safe. We do that by educating — at the elementary level, the middle school level, the high school level and with adults.”
To learn more, contact BVCASA’s Prevention Services at 979-846-3560 or by visiting bvcasa.org.