By Brent Curtis
RUTLAND HERALD STAFF WRITER – Published: April 11, 2012
Rutland County agencies working to curb drug, alcohol and tobacco use and obesity will be getting a big financial shot in the arm soon.
The Vermont Department of Health recently awarded $1.5 million in federal and state community transformation grants – $110,000 of which is coming to the Rutland Area Prevention Coalition which will distribute the money to more than a half dozen schools, medical agencies and social organizations.
The grant money comes from a combination of agencies including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration along with state Department of Health funds.
Joanne Calvi, a Health Department director in Rutland, said the transformation grants are designed to lower chronic illnesses by preventing the kinds of poor lifestyle choices that lead to diseases such as drug and alcohol addiction, respiratory ailments from smoking and ailments linked to obesity, such as diabetes.
Tina Coltey, executive director of RAPC, said that once her agency receives the funds this summer, it will distribute them to at least eight other organizations in the Rutland area, including the Boys & Girls Club of Rutland County, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, the Healthy Retailers project and a handful of colleges in the area – all of which have applied for funds to support prevention and healthy living programs.
Healthy Retailers, for example, works with small retail outlets to make small changes in alcohol and tobacco advertising that Coltey said makes a difference in how those products are marketed to children.
“For example, if tobacco products are sitting on the counter, could they be moved? Or if there’s a tobacco eye at a child’s eye level could it be moved?” she said. “Anything that reduces exposure to alcohol and tobacco products, especially for small children, is part of the goal.”
Programs supported at the other organizations include a smoking cessation program at the hospital, nutritional food promotions through RAFFL and the designing of bike paths through the planning commission.
At the Boys & Girls Club, which has locations in Rutland and Brandon, the funding will be used to support a new outreach program called “Family Matters.”
The program, utilized elsewhere in the country, talks parents through the process of talking to their kids about drugs and alcohol.
“A lot of us as parents don’t even know how to approach the subject,” said Larry Bayle, executive director of the Rutland Boys & Girls Club.
Parents interested in participating in Family Matters can call 747-4944.