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Belle Fourche ABC receives $625,000

September 8, 2018

BELLE FOURCHE — The Action for the Betterment of the Community (ABC) coalition of Belle Fourche was one of 50 organizations selected nationwide to receive federal grant monies for its substance abuse prevention and treatment services in Butte County.

“We’re going to make a difference and I’m so excited to see what that looks like,” Cassie Wendt, Butte County state’s attorney and ABC of Belle Fourche board president, said.

The coalition works to improve the quality of life for the community by collaborating to reduce drug and alcohol use among youth and address other social issues that may threaten the health and safety of local communities and families.

The coalition was recently awarded a Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in cooperation with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The coalition was granted $125,000 per year for the next five years.

Currently the coalition provides drug and alcohol evaluations and treatment for youth under the age of 18 but with the assistance of the additional funding, Wendt said that the coalition’s focus will be on alcohol and marijuana use among youth up to age 25.

The grant was written to serve all of Butte County.

“So we’re hopeful to start pulling more people from the Newell, Nisland, and Vale areas in and figuring out how we can benefit those areas,” she said.

ABC has partnered with the Belle Fourche School District to extend the services directly to the students in their daily environment.

“The school has been amazing,” Wendt said.

The school district offers an office space within the Belle Fourche High School, which allows the counselors to have direct contact with students on a weekly basis.

“It’s been great,” she said. “That’s something that we definitely want to continue.”

Wendt said the coalition board plans to meet with various arms of the community to draw information that will allow it to hone in on the needs of the community.

“What are those other areas that revolve around the alcohol and marijuana that we can really hone in on now that we have access to funds and access to bring us all together to deal with that?” she added.

“I’m super excited,” she said.

Wendt said the coalition has teamed up with business people, parents, law enforcement, members of the ministerial association, members of the school, court service officers, counselors, and more.

“It really is this huge group of our community coming together and working together,” she said

Wendt hopes to make town hall style educational opportunities that they’ve offered in the past a more regular occurrence.

“And we can start providing more information to the parents who are going to start seeing the effects of some of this stuff,” she said.

Wendt said another benefit to this type of grant is that there is a second five-year option after the first five-year period expires.

“So after the first five years if we’re successful and we have the numbers to show we’re successful, then we have the opportunity to apply for another five years,” she said.

“What we’re trying to do (related to treatment) is to help these kids get sober and stay sober,” Wendt said.

In 2015, when Wendt and others were interested in starting a Belle Fourche ABC coalition, the already established Sturgis ABC coalition, with the assistance of Kara Graveman, executive director of Sturgis ABC, helped the group lay the foundation to serve the Belle Fourche community.

“And from there it just took off,” Wendt said. “Without ABC of Sturgis, I don’t know what we would have done. Kara (Graveman) and counselors that we have have always been there, no matter how many times the kids come through or no matter what their needs are. Without them and their support and their willingness to work hard, we wouldn’t be here.”

Little by little, from offering educational resources to the community to inpatient treatment facilities and drug and alcohol treatment for youth in need, Wendt said, the coalition is making progress.

“So I think when you look at the funding it really goes back to ‘this is what we’ve done with no funding, now look what we can do when we have this kind of funding,’” she said.

This is third year the coalition has applied but the first it’s been awarded and was one of 50 organizations selected of 782 who applied nationwide this year.

Wendt looks forward to witnessing the boost the grant will give the coalition to be able to offer resources to the community’s youth.

“That’s my very favorite part of my job,” Wendt said. “To be able to watch something that you do actually make a change. I’ve been so blessed to get to work with some of the greatest kids and to see just a little bit of change and then watch them be successful. It’s the greatest honor I have.”

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