Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $625,000)
The United States is in the grips of an ongoing opioid and drug use crisis. New Jersey, where Center For Family Services (CFS) is based, is among the hardest hit states in the nation. Youth are especially vulnerable; not only is adolescence often when initiation to substance use occurs, but youth are living in homes and communities deeply impacted by substance abuse and its effects on health, economic stability, and family life. Camden and Gloucester Counties have seen an overall increase in overdose fatalities and drug-related hospital visits since 2008. In Camden County alone, the county Addiction Awareness Task Force documented a 370% increase in fatal overdoses from 2010 to 2018. The National Mentoring Resource Center has found mentoring has promise to positively affect youth substance use prevention and reduction. Mentoring has also shown positive results in the lives of youth with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which include household substance abuse. CFS has also seen the positive impact of youth mentoring firsthand through their Reach for Success mentoring program, which targets juvenile justice system-involved youth. Reach for Success, like Legacy Through Leadership program, is based on the six core elements of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring. Some of the youth struggle with substance use and could benefit from the higher level of service the proposed program, Legacy Through Leadership, will offer. Legacy Through Leadership will offer one-on-one and group mentoring to 100 youth ages 17 and under in New Jersey’s Camden and Gloucester Counties who are currently abusing or addicted to drugs (including opioids and methamphetamine), at risk for abusing drugs, and have family members who are currently abusing or addicted to drugs. Some youth may require extensive case management before being ready to be paired with a one-on-one mentor; others may prefer to participate only in group mentoring services. CFS will recruit at least 62 mentors, of which at least 50 will be trained, accepted, and paired with youth. Recognizing the underlying individual, family, and community traumas that many youth served have lived through, Legacy Through Leadership will also pair mentoring with voluntary trauma-informed, evidence-based counseling services.