October 10, 2007 Edition

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Oglesby is project
director for ATOD

Junior Briner (left), member of the ATOD Coalition, and Joyce Rose (right), co-chair, visit with Alison Oglesby who is the new project director for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Coalition of Lawrence County.

Amber Adams
Staff Writer

Alison Oglesby stepped into the position of project director of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Coalition of Lawrence County on Oct. 1. The position was created after the coalition received a strategic planning grant from the state of Arkansas.

ATOD received one of only 15 $50,000 strategic planning grants awarded in the state from the Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention (ADAP) to assist the coalition in addressing the issues of underage drinking and binge drinking among the youth in the county.

"Lawrence County ranked in the top quartile in the state of Arkansas with the number of youth who are binge drinking," said Joyce Rose, co-chair of the coalition. "Our goal is to reduce that stat."

"Alison's job over the next nine months will be deciding the best way to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol by our youth and what programs will be deemed successful in this prevention," said Junior Briner.

Oglesby will be working closely with administrators at schools in Lawrence County, members of law enforcement, government officials, parents, healthcare workers and youth. She will gather information and input from all areas of the community, look at the evidence-based programs that are available and decide which ones will work best in the different areas of the county.

"The same programs that work in Walnut Ridge may not work as well in other areas," said Oglesby. "We may be able to make one program work well throughout the county by using different parts of it in specific sections of the county. That is where help from administrators, counselors, law enforcement and students will come in.

"I don't know what will work best in each area, and that's why we need to work together to come up with a plan," she added.

According to statistics from a poll of students in Lawrence County, the use of drugs and alcohol is seen as expected, making it a social norm. "We need to change these social norms," said Rose. "Implementation of evidence-based programs will help us to do that."

The coalition is comprised of community members representing business leaders, law enforcement, healthcare, media, religious organizations and youth. Input from citizens from each of these areas is needed and will be taken into consideration in writing the grant proposal for Phase II.

Oglesby said her plans for the next several weeks include meeting with civic organizations such as Kiwanis and Lions Club, church organizations, school administrators and members of the drug free organizations at each school throughout the county.

"Right now, I just want to get my face out there. It's important that people know what the coalition's plans are and what my goals are as project director. My goal is to set up an effective network that will allow us to come up with some successful preventive programs. I was shocked when I started looking over the statistics for students in the county who engage in binge drinking and drug use and at what an early age it begins."

The grant application was made with the cooperation of the Lawrence County Health Coalition, Mid-South Health Systems and the Northeast Arkansas Educational Cooperative. The award is for the months of October through June. Out of the 27 that applied, only 15 grants were awarded.

"I think it worked in our favor that we have so much support from our law enforcement," said Rose, adding that Sheriff Dan Ellison accompanied Rose and Briner to Little Rock to defend the grant.

Oglesby is a 2001 graduate of Walnut Ridge High School. She received her bachelor of social work in May from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She lives in Walnut Ridge with her two sons, Kolton and Korwin, and is the daughter of Theresa and James Hooper and the late Norman Oglesby.

ATOD meets at 12:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at the NEA Educational Cooperative in Walnut Ridge. Anyone interested in attending is welcome.

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