State allocates $245,000 of marijuana revenue to fund anti-drug school programs

The Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, or DBHR, has allocated approximately $245,000 of Washington state’s recreational marijuana sales tax revenue to Island County.

The county has until March 31, 2018, to spend the money, which is for use in anti-drug and other mental-health services in public schools. Problem is, the county doesn’t have a plan nailed down quite yet.

Jackie Henderson, director of Island County Human Services, said that planning how to use the funds has proven to be complex.

“This is not a simple situation,” she said, adding that the people at the DBHR, who manage the money, “keep changing how the funds can be used.”

At a recent county commissioners meeting, Lynda Richards, assistant director of Island County Human Services, said the situation’s complexity was deepened by the DBHR’s stipulations that the money’s use be “targeted very specifically.”

These targets include selections from a list of “certain evidence-based programs” that center “around treatment at the middle-school and high-school levels to keep students from using drugs.” Henderson said.

The DBHR has scrutinized the programs on the list to ensure each selection’s track record of helping students recover, Henderson said. In addition, she said the funds could be used to train faculty and staff at the public schools on how to implement the programs once they were selected.

Helen Price Johnson told her fellow commissioners that Dr. Lance Gibbon, superintendent of Oak Harbor Public Schools, has expressed the need of more (anti-drug) resources in schools.

Gibbon was unavailable for comment, but Henderson said the county “has talked with the Oak Harbor School District to see if they wanted to use one of those (evidence-based) programs.”

An official meeting to that end was slated for March 2, but Oak Harbor High School’s bomb scare forced the meeting’s cancellation.

Despite the setback, Henderson said the county is exploring how best to use the funds. While she said “nothing is for sure,” one potentiality is for Island and Snohomish counties to join forces in a collaboration to help youth in the greater region.

“We’re doing the best we can to spend it (the money) in the best way we can,” Henderson told the county commissioners.

Commissioner Jill Johnson asked if the county could design a program that reaches a different audience of kids, such as those who have dropped out.

“We need to reach those who have fallen through the cracks — those are the ones we need to reach,” Johnson said.

Henderson said she is seeing if there’s a way to reach both students and teens not in school, maybe through organizations already in place.

She plans to contact all the county’s school districts to see what training can be implemented with the funds, to ensure better anti-drug and mental health resources for students, she said.

“We already have the money,” Henderson said. “We just have to decide with the districts how to use it.”

Possible Evidence-Based Programs:

1.) Motivation Enhancement Therapy

2.) Motivational Interviewing

3.) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Possible Training:

1.) Community Reinforcement and Family Training

2.) Seeking Safety for Adolescents

3.) Teen Intervene

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