MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. – The Mount Kisco Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Council has been named the Mount Kisco Chamber of Commerce’s business of the year.
Not only has the anti-drug group been recognized by the local community, but nationally as well. Mount Kisco is one of 36 communities in the country to receive the Drug Free Communities grant (DFC) in 2012. The federal grant gives Mt. Kisco $125,000 annually, renewable each year for up to five years. The grant money is to be used to bolster current drug prevention and education programs and implement new ones.
The 13-member board is led by chair Mel Berger, a former Mount Kisco pharmacist who originated the court rehab program, along with two co-coordinators, therapist Nan Miller and Dolores Vidal-Roy, both licensed clinical social workers.
In using the grant money, Miler, said, council members, who come from all sectors of the community, will focus chiefly on reducing youth substance abuse and access to alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs.
Miller compared the current social acceptability of alcohol and drugs to the way society formerly viewed smoking: "The norms of the community have changed and that's really our goal here," Miller said.
However, the recent loosening of marijuana law and the trend of adults hosting teen parties with alcohol are newer roadblocks against changing this culture of acceptance, Miller noted.
"There's a difference between a change and a transformation," Miller said. The model for the grant is research-based, she said. In order to assure that the grant is renewed, the government requires grant recipients to keep detailed records to gauge the grant’s actual quantitative impact on drug numbers.
And, since the grant requires matching in-kind funds for volunteer work, council member Bob Kearney came up with an easy-to-use computer program to keep track of volunteer hours, adapting it from a model used by volunteers at the SPCA.
"Your time is valuable and the government recognizes that," said council member Barry Malvin. Even travel time is counted in the record keeping.
In addition to continuing on with initiatives like TIPS training for bars and restaurants, liquor law compliance checks by Mount Kisco police, and the council’s prescription drug take back day, Miller said she plans to develop focus groups in the community, reach out to the media to educate the public, and coordinate with the school district to survey students and parents.
Council member Lauren Beeson, student assistance counselor at Fox Lane High School, will also organize a youth leadership group, as youth participation is among the many conditions for grant renewal.