YMC Chemical Coalition going new direction with funding

GRANITE FALLS — The Yellow Medicine County Chemical Coalition was looking for — and found — support from the county board in pursuing a new line of funding and redirection for funds for the upcoming year.

Chemical Coalition representative Sharon Hendrichs requested $25,000 of the funds the county had set aside last year for the Chemical Coalition and its activities such as Kids Night Out that promoted drug- and alcohol-free events for school-age children to enjoy.

The new request asked for funding that the majority of which would be put to use through the county’s school youth groups instead of on a program coordinator.

“We’re asking for county support activities in the community that work to reduce substance abuse,” Hendrichs said. “This would be the process we would go through.”

The youth groups would have to meet the criteria set forth in the packet she handed to board members. The request includes a follow-up evaluation form for the groups to complete and return to the coalition as in addition to the application form.

“The schools are wanting more funding for their kids’ events than to pour most of their grant dollars into the form of a person who wouldn’t get to continue to work with them one-on-one anyway,” Hendrichs said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

This year’s event requests are not to exceed $3,000 for a single event or request.

“If you have two or more events at the same school, you would want $3,000 per event,” Commissioner Ron Antony said.

Any funding they would be going after this year would not include the major grant they had applied for previously because the former grant required funding the coalition position for the most part.

“We have not applied for a $125,000 grant due in May. The coalition isn’t planning on going for that one,” Hendrichs said.

“The coalition was not going to apply for this as our department doesn’t have the capacity to apply for a DFC grant,” she said. Additionally, that program would require that the coordinator go out-of-state to go through the academy again, unless the new person had just graduated the academy.

The coalition felt if they could at least sustain these youth groups and these activities instead of fund and retrain somebody that this would be the better way to go Hendrichs said.

Antony said that 80 percent of the grant monies were getting wrapped up in this individual (chemical coalition coordinator).

“This is no reflection on the last person in that position,” Antony said. “They were looking more at wanting to sponsor an event with no drinking, no drugs, ‘Give us money to do that. Give us money to put posters in the hallways.’ Give money to the schools is what they want.”

“Program money we would have to look somewhere else,” Hendrichs said. “For programming, we could look at the Bush Foundation, look at some the more local grants that would actually fund local activities. Federal dollars were a small portion. I think it would be better done through local community funds than federal.”

“Yes, we’d be using a lot of the funding for salaries, but don’t forget, he’s putting in the work to earn it, not just draining funds,” Commissioner Gary Johnson said.

“(That was fine) before, when there was tons of money, but since then, there isn’t much,” Antony said.

Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Federal Funding had purchased materials such as posters, signs and other supplies that can be reused.

“We were able to put up signage at the county fair and elsewhere,” Hendrichs said. There were still materials available, she said.

“We sat down to figure out what we really wanted. We don’t want to have to apply for another grant just to do it,” Antony said. “Schools agreed that what they want is money to put into hallways and sponsor these events to reduce drug and alcohol use. They don’t want to hire another coordinator just to get the grant.

“We have a strong support. We have a strong social worker. We need to have someone on the ground to work with the kids.”

The coordinator did help get the youth groups started, but his/her role was limited to one-on-one support to the person leading those groups. He/she was not allowed to be the one to lead the groups. He/she was there to coordinate and get the information to the groups to get their own activities going, Hendrichs said.

If the county board wanted to pursue a federal grant, someone else would have to make the application, Hendrichs said.

“From our perspective in the Justice Office,” she said, “we’re so bogged down, I don’t think I could do it. If the Chemical Coalition wanted to go ahead and do it (make that grant application), they can.”

“Our stats have improved so much we no longer qualify for the previous grant, but that grant program is no longer out there, either,” Antony said.

Levy money had been set aside in 2017, and the coordinator left the program early, so there was money left over that could be used, County Administrator Peg Heglund said.

The coalition wants to filter those funds down to the schools.

“What are we doing on the west end of the county (to reduce alcohol and drug use) that they’re not doing on the east?” Johnson asked. “How do we balance the funding between the two (ends of the county)?”

“The program is countywide,” Commissioner Greg Renneke said.

Antony said that the funding is based on the need for funds to sponsor activities like Kids Night Out and After Prom events that any or all of the schools in the county are likely to host.

Hendrichs went through the questions on the application and evaluation forms. Questions such as estimated number of youth served as a result of this funding, target population, environmental prevention strategies used, an outline of the activities, how it aligns with the strategy the group is proposing and how will the group measure success.

On the evaluation form, each group will be asked to outline how their goals were met.

“This will give us more information than we ever had before,” Antony said. “We could put it on a spreadsheet.”

Antony asked the commissioners if the coalition was authorized to make decisions and just report regularly to the YMC Board or if they had to bring all their decision-making to the county board.

Johnson moved to give the plan a one-year trial and allow the coalition to make the decisions and report. Commissioner John Berends seconded it. The board voted unanimously to approve it.

Antony was then reappointed to represent the YMC Board on the YMC Chemical Coalition advisory board.