New Haven receives grant to combat underage drinking

Naples Pizza and Restaurant and Toad’s Place are not the only places in New Haven experiencing a crackdown on underage drinking.

The city has received a special $740,585 grant to combat the use of alcohol among middle school and high school students. The grant comes from the Safe and Drug-Free School Program of the U.S. Department of Education. Out of a pool of 117 applicants, New Haven’s was one of 46 school systems nationwide to win the grant.

“Because of the groundwork laid in prevention, and a strong citywide grant writing collaboration, New Haven was selected to lead this new effort in south central Connecticut,” New Haven Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo said in a press release.

Dee Speese-Linehan, program director for the New Haven Public Schools’ Social Development Office, said the grant money was awarded because the city’s plan “looked at all the critical factors: use, abuse, and addiction.”

Now that New Haven has received the federal grant, schools will be able to pay more attention to treatment access for students, said Cathy Elkin-Cohen, project coordinator for the Safe School Program in New Haven. Additionally, the money will be used to focus on parental involvement, and appeals to families and caregivers to become more active in students’ lives.

“We’ll look at universal prevention — why starting is wrong,” Speese-Linehan said. “Then we’ll ask how we pull [the students] out of the path to addiction, and finally what we’re going to do for the kids who become addicted.”

One part of the program, called “Reconnecting Youth,” will consist of in-class education on alcohol as well as other health issues. The funding includes money for teacher training.

Another planned use for the funding is advertisements aimed at all members of the community. The advertisements will describe the risk factors of alcohol use and abuse, including drinking and driving, alcohol-induced violence, and stresses on families.

But while underage drinking problems do exist in the city, the rate of alcohol use among New Haven students is not particularly high in comparison to other areas.

“Our level of student alcohol use has been well below state and national averages,” Speese-Linehan said. She added that in terms of its across-the-board prevention and treatment programs, New Haven has had a good track record.

Not all news has been positive, however. Speese-Linehan said that students who attend magnet schools often come from the suburbs and bring with them higher levels of alcohol use and abuse.

“Binge drinking rates have not gone down as we would like them, and we’ve seen a recent rise in alcohol use rates at our magnet schools,” Speese-Linehan said.

Esther Armmand, co-author of the grant proposal and director of New Haven’s Office of Substance Abuse Policy and Prevention, stressed that the city will be a collaborative partner with the New Haven Board of Education.

“We hope to build a strong connection with other city prevention efforts,” Armmand said. “Community involvement and social programs are key.”

Comments