Pleasant Grove will be joining forces with Utah County to bring the “Communities that Care” program to the city. The international program is designed to help communities prevent problems such as youth suicide, substance abuse, crime and violence before they begin to occur.
“We have been approached by the county to see if we were interested in developing this in our community, to a point that they will fund the first year of this program,” said Scott Darrington, city administrator.
This program will begin to be created in January. “Our first step is to hire a part-time person to run the program,” Darrington said. “Once they are onboard, then the program will be built with help from Utah County.”
The part-time employee will work with a board that will help with data analysis and decision-making. “As a city, we will be involved in this board. We will have membership on this board, so we will have a pretty good idea of what’s happening,” Darrington said.
Utah County will fund the first year of the program at $24,000, which will fully cover the first year’s expenses, including wages for the new employee. After the first year, the county will fund $16,000 per year. The city will commit to $10,000 per year and will have a yearly contract with the county. There is no long-term contract. City leaders can choose to discontinue, rather than renew the yearly contract.
The focuses of the program in Pleasant Grove will be suicide prevention and underage substance abuse, according to Darrington. The idea is to encourage prevention at a young age to prevent substance abuse issues from starting, rather than rehabilitating after the fact.
“Communities that Care is a framework that has been being researched and evaluated for over 30 years to show its effects,” said Heather Lewis, Utah County Prevention Program manager. “The funding we provide comes from state and federal dollars that the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health oversees.”
According to the SHARP survey, a questionnaire given to students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades, Utah County alcohol use rates have steadily declined since incorporating prevention coalitions such as this, Lewis said.
Community needs and available resources will be assessed and other resources that are needed to address the problems will be identified.
“After they’ve figured out what they have to work with, they create an action plan, which might include incorporating parenting classes, an after school program or other types of community support and education,” Lewis said.
After the plan is set, implementation will begin. “After they’ve had time to see the plan in action, they’ll evaluate their efforts and make changes, if necessary, to strengthen the effort or impact the problem in another way,” Lewis said.
Other Utah County cities that are currently involved with Communities that Care include American Fork, Eagle Mountain, Genola, Goshen, Payson, Provo, Santaquin and Saratoga Springs.