In a perfect world, the City Administration would strictly deal with snow removal, repaving streets, and a host of other pedestrian community issues. Salt trucks would be dispatched, crews would churn concrete, and business would resume as usual. But this is reality, and some problems meet us at the door whether we choose them or not. At these times we must rise to the occasion.
Bill Oeding, City Administrator for Valparaiso, recalls a particular moment when the demand for substance abuse prevention became ever so apparent: It was 2009, we were sitting as a city leadership team and we were doing our master plan process. At the very end we're all done, we're all wrapping up, we're all excited, it had been a full day and then City Fire Chief Dave Nondorf said, Mayor, what are we going to do about all of the kids overdosing in our community? It was then that we decided we weren't done with our master plan process yet. We decided to work with other groups knowing that we could have a multi-prong approach to substance abuse in our community. We decided to work with faith-based organizations, schools, and businesses to do prevention. And the Valparaiso Substance Abuse Prevention (VSAP) was born.
Bill Oeding knows that prevention is crucial in combating substance abuse. On behalf of the city, VSAP has reached out to local businesses, schools, and families in an effort to increase awareness of the problem and move forward with solutions. The small business group met recently to talk about what role it can play in prevention and determined that the best first step would be to build a drug abuse policy and a pre-employment drug screening procedure. The group accordingly sent a survey to the business community and received a phenomenal response.
Over 80 percent of all businesses are small businesses. Putting these measures in place is a huge step forward for Valparaiso. Creating a united front in Valparaiso means communicating a consistent message from every business, school, and community of faith that We care about our youth and want what is best for them.
The VSAP initiative allows matching grants to be made available to churches interested in implementing prevention curriculum. The VSAP initiative has enabled Frontline to increase outreach efforts to communities of faith through matching grant funds exclusively allocated for the purchase of the Too Good for Drugs evidence-based curriculum, In use at several Porter County schools. Communities of faith also have an opportunity to seize the moment and further this message by taking advantage of matching grant funds. This strategy reinforces the effectiveness of a consistent message.
Bill Oeding explains: The research shows that if we can work with middle school kids on life skill programs they are more likely to make the right choices in the future. All of these parts working together: businesses, city officials, schools, and communities of faith will continue to create a culture in the City of Valparaiso where well being is valued.
If you are interested in taking advantage of matching grant funds available for prevention outreach, contact Frontline Foundations at 219-728-1638 or go to the Prevention Tab, and click on host prevention at www.liferecoveryproject.org.