Prevention Matters initiative

By Lynn Sygiel, editor, Charitable Advisors

[ also see our main story, Fairbanks Foundation focuses on its future ]

In January, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation announced a $12 million initiative to support drug prevention education in Marion County schools over the next three years.

The Prevention Matters initiative will work to address the opioid crisis for the next generation by giving students tools need to avoid substance use. The foundation hopes it will also decrease the use of drugs such as methamphetamine and marijuana and tobacco.

Foundation President and CEO Claire Fiddian Green said the foundation did a lot of advance work to locate effective solutions for preventing people from getting addicted in the first place.

“There’s so much focus right now on helping people get access to treatment, which is incredibly important and valuable and worthwhile, but we couldn’t help asking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if people didn’t struggle with addiction in the first place. What’s going on with prevention?’

“So that’s what led us to launch the Prevention Matters initiative earlier this year,” Fiddian Green said.

The initiative is part of a multi-pronged effort by the Fairbanks Foundation to combat the opioid crisis. In addition to prevention, the broader initiative aims to expand access to treatment and other services.

Prevention Matters funding is divided into two phases. Planning grants, which are due at the end of March, were designed to help schools find a program that’s a best fit. The first phase is non-competitive, so any school that submitted an application received a planning grant.

Two entities, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University School of Public Health and the Education Development Center worked with schools during the planning period to help each applicant identify a program that fit its needs.

“We have identified some prevention experts and asked them to identify what are the very best evidence-based programs that exist today for elementary, middle and high school that have been proven to help children either avoid using drugs or stop using them if they started using them. They developed a short list, which is available on our website and anyone who applies for this Prevention Matters grant opportunity has to select one of those programs,” said Fiddian Green.

Additionally during the planning phase, the prevention experts were able to provide technical assistance to schools to help figure out the best program fit. This included identifying places to visit to see the program in action and help envision what it would look like in their school or district.

After the planning stage, if schools want to implement and desire funding, they submit an application. Those that are accepted and selected will receive a three-year grant.

“This is a competitive grant-making process. The $12 million isn’t enough to fund every school, but it will help many schools in the county,” she said.

The selected schools will again work with the technical assistance providers to put together a feasibility plan to sustain the program after the grant period.

“As all of us in the nonprofit sector know too well that you can have a great program that goes away when the money goes away. We know that’s a challenge and we are hoping that these prevention experts can help schools come up with useable plans to find ways to sustain them,” said Fiddian Green.

“There are schools all around the country that have found a way to implement prevention programs and sustain them with their public dollars, so we hope that we can find some good models that be good examples for Marion County schools.”

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