BURRILLVILLE – An organization working to prevent substance abuse in Burrillville has secured their future in town for at least the next five years, thanks to a grant totaling $625,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Burrillville Prevention Action Coalition has been awarded $125,000 a year for five years through a Drug-Free Communities grant, issued by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and managed by the CDC.
The funding is the result of extensive work over more than two years by Monica Blanchette, who serves as coordinator for the program, launched in 2013 as a collaboration between local police and school officials in reaction the opioid epidemic.
To make the Burrillville-based group grant eligible, Blanchette needed to propel the organization to the next level, establishing relationships with representatives from 12 sectors in the community: youth; parents; business; media; school; youth-serving organizations; law enforcement; religious or fraternal organizations; civic or volunteer groups; healthcare professional or organizations; state, local, and tribal government agencies; and other local organizations involved in reducing substance use.
Participants, including those representatives, recruited to the program over the past two years, meet monthly to discuss substance abuse prevention initiatives, organizing events such as town hall-style community forums and efforts like the BPAC 5K, which recently raised $5,000 in scholarship money for qualifying Burrillville seniors. BPAC’s well-attended meetings include multiple leaders in their field, from the principals of all five Burrillville schools, to Town Councilors, fire and police chiefs.
Applicants for the DFC grant must also prove that they have an active coalition, and are legally eligible to receive federal funding through a fiscal agent, which for BPAC, is the town itself.
Blanchette first applied for the grant in 2019, and notes that she used the feedback from the initial rejection to make changes to the 2020 funding application.
“All of the funding is directed toward youth substance use prevention efforts,” Blanchette explained.
As a grant recipient, members of BPAC are now obligated to attend the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America’s National Coalition Academy.
“It is three weeks of training to help improve and strengthen coalition efforts by assisting with action plans, capacity building, evaluations, etc.,” Blanchette said.
The three weeks are divided into week-long sessions, spread out throughout the year, and at least two coalition members must attend.
As the sole employee, running the program through the Burrillville Police Department, Blanchette will be the consistent BPAC representative at all three training sessions. Kristin Raimond, who represents the organization’s parents sector, has stepped up to join her.
“She’s a working mother of four and her daughter, Mackenzie Raimond, was part of prevention youth groups with BPAC, at BHS, and represented youth on the SADD National Student Leadership Council and the SADD College Advisory Council,” Blanchette explained.
BPAC received the official notice of award from DFC this week, and is eligible to reapply to receive funding past the five year mark, for years six through ten.
At a meeting of BPAC on Wednesday, Feb. 10, police Col. Stephen Lynch thanked Blanchette for her hard work in securing funding for the program through 2025.
“That’s a substantial grant,” Lynch said. “It was a lot of work. That’s a big win for BPAC, and the town.”
Editor’s note: Publisher Sandy Seoane represents BPAC’s media sector.