The Task Force is a coalition of voluntary members representing both public and private sectors of our community. It is concerned with the creation, implementation, and advocacy of effective community development for substance abuse prevention. Since 1988 when the state legislature provided funding for prevention to all 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island thru the RISAPA (Rhode Island Substance Abuse Prevention Act), the Task Force has been assessing Pawtucket’s prevention needs and addressing them by designing and implementing prevention activities. Since its inception, the Task Force has received state and federal grant funding totaling more than 7 million dollars for substance abuse prevention in our area and has received recognition for its innovative programming.
Included in its activities are prevention strategies that involve local schools, churches, businesses, neighborhoods, municipal departments, public housing developments, ethnic communities, and various other sectors. The community development approach to prevention, which the Task force employs, seeks to empower individuals and groups in Pawtucket by increasing knowledge and skills to enable them in making a difference within their spheres of influence. The Task Force seeks to diminish the root causes of substance abuse by developing healthy children, good schools, stable families, safe neighborhoods, and a strong community. In Pawtucket, it has become a department located in City Hall. We believe prevention, although inclusive of substance abuse issues, actually encompasses a wide variety of areas and we endeavor to address any and all prevention arenas.
The Pawtucket Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force is overseen by a board of directors. We currently have 18 task force members representing various factions of the community. Our chair is presently Jim Ruthowski, Director of Security for The Pawtucket Housing Authority, and vice chair is Laurie Randall, Guidance Counselor at The Pawtucket Alternative Learning Program. The Director of Programs is Diane Dufresne, RN, MA and the Administrative Assistant is Mary Grigas. This is a totally volunteer board, and we welcome anyone who lives or works in Pawtucket and has an interest to contact us at (401) 728-0500 Ext. 303, or direct at (401) 616-2266.
We conduct a program at Pawtucket Housing Authority sites in conjunction with CDBG, Weed & Seed, and Drug Free Communities funding where we currently offer, or have offered, a curriculum called CSI (Creating Solutions for Independence) to teen residents of our housing developments on site at Galego Court & Prospect Heights, at The Church of the Good Shepard in the Pleasant View neighborhood, and at The Woodlawn Community Center in the Woodlawn section of the city. This program focuses on educational enrichment, community service, and talent cultivation. The current program runs through 2008. Drug free Communities funding allows us to conduct this program at Prospect Heights and Galego Court collaboratively with The Music School of The R.I. Philharmonic, and CDBG funding allows us to partner with The Providence Black Repertory Company, the Everett Dance Theatre, and Fusionworks Dance Co. among others.
We had an ongoing grant with the Department Of Health to address tobacco control & prevention for 10 years where we focused on youth empowerment. We also received an additional $14,000.00 through the R.I. Dept. of Health in ‘04/’05 to conduct our youth group SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) which has been one of the longest running tobacco focused youth programs statewide, raising awareness of the dangers of smoking, promoting policy change around tobacco, and educating both the public and private sectors of the community on tobacco use. These youth have become quite sophisticated in their efforts and have actually lead the city in making positive changes regarding tobacco use. Our current funding targets Community Initiatives in Tobacco Control & Prevention and is funded through 6/30/09. This program, originally conducted in collaboration with Rhode Island Youth Guidance Center, is now partnered with Blackstone Academy Charter School, and is focused on developing and fostering a Tobacco Task Force in the city. We were also involved with the Smokeless States initiative in partnership with Progreso Latino during the mid 90’s.
In October 2000, we were awarded from the Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency through the Pawtucket Comprehensive Strategy Coalition and in collaboration with the Department of Children Youth & Families to conduct a truancy prevention program called Project PART (Pawtucket Assessment & Referral Team). This program has been highly successful in intervening at the truly preventive level of truant behavior in 6th through 9th grades in Pawtucket. For the past several years we have received additional monies through the Pleasant View and Woodlawn Weed & Seed Programs to offer these services specifically to all students residing in these neighborhoods.
We are currently the recipients of a $79,000 state block grant as well as a $50,000 Rhode Island Justice Commission grant to implement a CSAP model program called Creating Lasting Family Connections at the two subsidized low-income housing sites at Galego Court & Prospect Heights, as well as at Blackstone Academy Charter School, and the Woodlawn Community Center.
We are currently the recipient of a $540,000 (over 3 years) SPFSIG (Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant) that will allow us to utilize the coalition to reach general and sub-populations in Pawtucket regarding alcohol use among youth through a variety of strategies, such as, media, increasing the capacity of the coalition, and providing evidenced based programming.
The Task Force received monies from the State Incentive Grant program through a collaboration with the Pawtucket Comprehensive Strategy Coalition and Initiatives for Human Development to implement the Parenting Wisely Program at 5 sites throughout the city. We have also been the recipient of a CSAP (Center for Substance Abuse Prevention) 2 year grant which ended 9/29/01 entitled Project Force. This was an effort of the Urban Task Force Coalition (Providence, Pawtucket, East Providence, Central Falls, Warwick, and Woonsocket) and focused on family strengthening. We received high praise from Washington, D.C. regarding our success with the outcomes of this grant. We were also awarded a 2 million dollar, 5 year CSAP Community Partnership grant with Central Falls (1991 through 1996). Several programs initiated through this grant are still in existence.
Some of the events we traditionally run are a Red Ribbon Week in October focused on drug abuse prevention that involves all Pawtucket students in an arts contest. We hold a celebration and performance exhibition for the mayor at city hall at the end of that week. Another event we run annually is the Teen Hall of Fame where a committee chooses up to 10 teens each year to be inducted for their community service activities in Pawtucket. It focuses on the positive contributions of our Pawtucket teens, recognizing their efforts on behalf of the entire community. We also annually sponsor the Prevention Academy Awards where we honor adults in the community who are deserving of recognition for their volunteer efforts on behalf of substance abuse prevention. In 1999 we began giving a special award to a Pawtucket restaurant that had chosen to go smoke free. Our recipients have been Greenhouse Caterers, Connie's Restaurant, Spumoni’s Seafood & Italian Restaurant, The Exchange Street Café, The Heritage Tap, and The Garden Grille. Since our efforts in tobacco control have been so successful, the new Smoke-free Workplace state ordinance has usurped the need for this award, and 2005 was the last year it was awarded, to Tom’s Restaurant, for going smoke-free prior to enactment of the ordinance. We also facilitate several health fairs each year focusing on adolescents (High Schools and Junior High Schools) and senior citizens in Pawtucket. We offer responsible alcohol server training classes here at city hall twice in September every year, conducted by a trained professional, and as a task force, we are intimately involved with legislation around establishments that serve alcohol in the city, with special regard to underage drinking.
We are available as a referral service for Pawtucket citizens who are in need of substance abuse services & we encourage anyone who has questions to contact us. We began publishing a Teen Resource Guide in 1999, and update and reprint it on an every other year basis. The 2005 guide is currently available and we expect a 2008 guide to be available in the Spring.
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- Don Grebien
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