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The Franklin County Health Department has received a $170,000 grant from UK’s Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC). The grant is renewable for three years (total of $510,000) and will support Just Say Yes, an initiative to stop substance use before it starts by providing healthy activities and environments for youth.

Just Say Yes, which also receives support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, grew out of a partnership between FCHD, Yes Arts and the Franklin County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP). This collaboration quickly expanded to include the City of Frankfort, Franklin County Fiscal Court, both local school districts, the Frankfort Area Chamber of Commerce, and a host of other community and faith-based partners.

The program uses local data and close collaboration between families, schools, policy-makers, businesses and faith and community groups to create environments that support children’s healthy development. Surveys conducted through the public middle and high schools this fall will identify key risk and protective factors that families and the community can address in order to curb youth substance use. Research has repeatedly shown that delaying first use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances decreases lifetime risk of addiction and substance misuse.

Keeping kids engaged in healthy activities when school is out is an important part of preventing substance use and other risky behaviors, which tend to take hold during adolescents’ unsupervised time. To combat this, the health department and its partners created the “Yes Card,” a $400 electronic debit card that can be used to pay for after-school and other out-of-school time activities from an approved list of program providers.

A pilot group of 300 students — including all middle schoolers at Second Street School and selected students from Elkhorn Middle and Bondurant — will receive three Yes Cards over the next two and a half years. Parents of selected students have already been notified. The list of Yes Card activity providers, which is expected to grow, includes Broadway Clay, GURU Kids, Josephine Sculpture Park, Kentucky Dance Academy, Kentucky Gem Cats, My Old Kentucky Om Yoga Center and Yes Arts.

Just Say Yes is inspired by the Icelandic Prevention Model, whose unprecedented success has made it a gold standard for communities looking for effective “upstream” solutions to substance misuse. The model is now being implemented on five continents. Franklin County joins communities in West Virginia, Vermont and Alaska as early adapters of the model in the United States. In order to account for Kentucky’s high rates of childhood trauma and inequities based on race and income, Franklin County’s project integrates a trauma-informed approach, as well as careful attention to equity, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the program’s design.

“We are excited to have this opportunity to focus on true primary prevention with our youth,” said Franklin County Health Department Director Judy Mattingly, explaining that “primary prevention” refers to preventing disease before it ever starts.

“While this type of prevention may take time to show results, the evidence shows that providing healthy alternatives and mentors during formative years can drastically reduce addiction and overdoses later in life.”

In 2017, Kentucky had the fifth highest drug overdose fatality rate in the U.S. In an effort to combat the evolving opioid overdose epidemic, KIPRC was awarded a three-year, $23 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement the Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) strategy. OD2A integrates overdose surveillance and prevention strategies to reduce substance misuse and drug overdoses. Through OD2A, KIPRC has awarded six local health departments mini-grants to further their overdose prevention initiatives.

KIPRC Director Terry Bunn is serving as co-principal investigator on the project. 

“Local health departments are leaders in their communities responding to the drug overdose crisis”, said Bunn, professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health. “By partnering with local health departments, we are better able to build long-term prevention capacity and promote effective programs and interventions that use local data and community knowledge to combat the epidemic of overdoses. We are grateful to partner with these health departments who are making a difference in their communities.”

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