Ottawa has been selected to participate in a state-funded assessment of local drug and alcohol use in an effort to institute a comprehensive prevention plan.
Jen Jordan, director of prevention for the Lawrence-based DCCCA prevention center, told a group of professionals at an Ottawa school district lunch gathering Thursday that she had selected Ottawa as one of three communities to be assessed in the eight-county area her office serves.
The group had gathered at the school district’s central office, 1404 S. Ash St., Ottawa, to review work it had undertaken in June to address behavioral issues, identify and combat drug and alcohol use in schools, tackle truancy problems and encourage more parent and community involvement in schools. Jordan was among the 50 professionals who gathered for the initial summer meeting. Since that meeting, the group had divided into committees to explore each of the four issues — behavioral, substance use, truancy and parental/community involvement.
The drug and alcohol assessment Jordan will undertake is part of a Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant provided to DCCCA through the Kansas Department for Children and Family Services, she said. DCCCA is the commonly known name for the former Douglas County agency that has expanded in scope to include a range of social services, Jordan said, in explaining the former acronym that evolved into the prevention center’s name.
Jordan said her eight-county territory includes Franklin, Douglas, Miami, Jefferson, Jackson, Atchison, Brown and Doniphan counties.
The other two communities to be assessed this go-around are Eudora and Doniphan County, she said.
Jordan, a 1992 graduate of Ottawa High School, said she selected Ottawa because of the program initiated this summer by Dean Katt, superintendent of Ottawa schools, to assess drug and alcohol use.
“It was clear Ottawa and Franklin County had the political and social systems in place to support this assessment, which is not always the case with some communities,” Jordan said. “It’s refreshing this assessment is not being triggered by a tragic incident, which often can generate a reactive response. This assessment is a proactive move by a community that has shown it is eager to address the issue.”
As part of the study, which kicked off Monday, Jordan’s team will undertake the first three steps of a five-step process, which includes the assessment of local substance use, problems related to substance use and the underlying factors contributing to the substance use.
“The assessment will be specific to Ottawa, and will not compare it to other communities,” Jordan said. “We want to know what the most prevalent substance issue is in Ottawa — whether it be underage drinking, marijuana use or abusing prescription drugs, for example. That’s what the assessment will determine.”
The assessment also will look at what factors contribute to substance use.
“Maybe [Ottawa] being on the I-35 corridor is an influencing factor, for example,” Jordan said.
Jordan said her team will be collecting data from law enforcement, court services, hospitals and schools related to incidents of substance use as part of the assessment.
The second step will look at the community’s level of readiness to engage in and support prevention efforts, as well as identify resources available within the community to assist in this prevention effort.
The third step will be to draft a comprehensive plan with goals, objectives and strategies aimed at meeting the substance abuse prevention needs of the community, she said.
Jordan said this plan must be submitted to the state by May 2.
Once the state has assessed the comprehensive plan for Ottawa, Jordan said, the city could receive an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 in state funds to help implement the plan. The assessment also could lead to the possibility of obtaining more funds in the future through federal grants, she added.
The final two steps — implementation and evaluation of the comprehensive plan — would be implemented after the state’s new fiscal year begins July 1.
She said by identifying the prevalent problems, and the contributing factors, a community can be better prepared to “hopefully prevent these negative processes from occurring.”
Jordan said she is looking forward to conducting the assessment in Ottawa.
“It’s my hometown, and I care a lot about it,” Jordan said. “And it’s exciting to see that the people want it.”
Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org