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Healthy Youth conference seeks funds from county

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By Chris Sardelli

Lancaster County Council is considering whether to help fund an annual conference that focuses on youth substance abuse prevention.

Organizers of the third annual Prevention of Youth Substance Abuse in Rural Communities Conference, planned for Oct. 14 to 16 at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster, are seeking funding from the county to help with food, advertising and travel costs for speakers. Conference co-chairwoman Sharon Novinger told council Aug. 31 that the majority of the conference’s funding, about $30,000, comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This money is used mainly for speaker fees and conference materials. But federal money cannot be used for food, advertising and travel costs, which is why $10,000 is being sought from County Council.

Charlene McGriff, hospitality committee chairwoman for the local conference, said council funded the conference last year.

“For those who have attended the conference, it was one of the best we’ve put on in Lancaster County,” McGriff said. “We had some of the best workshops and presenters. Our conference got to the meat of the problem.”

County Council Chairman Rudy Carter said he supports the conference, especially because of the rampant teenage alcohol abuse he has heard of in the county. He said the conference is a useful tool for educating the community.

“I was speaking to people about this,” Carter said. “They said the first conference was great, and the second one was even better.”

Councilman Jack Estridge asked McGriff if the school board could provide funding for the conference, but she said the school’s money is budgeted strictly for educational purposes. McGriff serves as chairwoman of the county school board. She is also a candidate for the District 2 seat on County Council.

Councilman Larry Honeycutt expressed support of the conference.

“It’s a good program and if we can keep young people out of jail then it was definitely worth it,” he said.

Carter said council would examine where funding to help with the conference would come from.

Council will discuss the issue as an action item at its meeting Monday night.

About the event

The conference focuses on different topics related to youth substance abuse prevention. This year’s theme is “Exploring the Gateway of Underage Drinking.” Previous conference topics have included how organizations can develop their own prevention programs and also how to adapt prevention programs to different cultural standards.

Speakers scheduled to appear this year include Toren and Chris Volkmann, a mother and son who discuss underage binge drinking and addiction from the book “From Binge to Blackout.”

The conference is designed for prevention specialists, youth service workers, nurses, clergy, teachers, counselors and law enforcement, though parents and families are invited as well. New to the conference this year is a Teen Night, where youth groups from the area will be invited.

More than 200 people attended the conference last year, and organizers are expecting almost 300 attendees this year.

The conference, to be held at the Bradley Arts and Sciences Building at USCL, is sponsored by the Lancaster County School District, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Lancaster County Coalition for Healthy Youth, which helps with prevention and intervention services for area youth.

For details, visit www.coalition4healthyyouth.org.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416