Preventing drug abuse is a goal of Project LEAD

The Project LEAD coalition met Monday afternoon to begin developing a system to help Ogle County youths avoid abusing drugs and alcohol.

"Our mission thus far is to reduce substance abuse by creating an environment to build up our youth," said Erin Clark from LSSI. "What do our kids need to be happy and healthy."

Project LEAD is Leaders Encouraging Abstinence from Drugs. The program is looking into a preventative approach in reducing the negative impact of drugs and alcohol.

The goal is to serve childen in fifth through 12th grades.

"We are making a coalition and choosing a curriculum for the schools," said Clark. "We are also using the Illinois Youth Survey."

Currently only 7 of 17 Ogle County School have used the survey. The free survey will allow LEAD members to develop targeted curriculum based on the community needs.

"The intervention needs to address the community culture. We want to recruit the schools for the survey," said Clark. "The survey addresses bullying, substance abuse, and mental health in schools."

The survey is taken by students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12. The next survey will be conducted in 2014.

Clark said the schools need to be made aware of the survey before next year.

Funding for Project LEAD is paid for in part from a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services to address substance abuse using a community prevention model.

"We want intervention to be driven by the community. We need to know what is in place," said Clark. "What is working and what do we need to build up on."

One challenge for the project is that all interventions have to be evidence based, which is why the survey is important.

"We also want to make sure that we are continually evaluating to make a sustainable process.  We want this to be something that grows."

At the first Project LEAD coalition meeting representatives from school districts, the Ogle County State's Attorney, Ogle County Probation Department, Ogle County Sheriff's Department, Oregon Park District, LSSI, and LOMC were among those brainstorming ideas to move the project forward.