CASA asks ed board for financial aid

CASA asks ed board for financial aid
Manhasset Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse board member Dr. Caryn Sawyer addresses the Manhasset Board of Education.

The Manhasset Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse, or CASA, last Thursday asked the Manhasset Board of Education to help fill a funding shortfall of almost 80 percent that will hit the group in September 2018 when its federal grant runs out.

The grant currently funds a full-time project coordinator, also known as a prevention provider, who plans and supervises the organization’s programming, much of which takes place in Manhasset schools. CASA officials said the anticipated loss of the position is best offset by the district’s hiring or funding a replacement to start in the 2018-19 school year. 

“We think the best option would be for the Board of Education to fund the position through the district and make it a permanent part of he community,” the CASA executive director, Jennifer DeSena, said at the meeting. “You’ve seen how much we’ve been able to do under the federal grant since 2008. We want to continue that work.”

The group was founded in 2001 but officials from both the organization and the district agreed that its services improved substantially after receipt of a federal Drug Free Communities grant in 2008. The organization aims to “reduce the illegal, underage use of alcohol, tobacco, prescription and other drugs among youth,” according to its website.

“We saw a quantum leap after 2008,” Manhasset Superintendent Charles Cardillo said. “We need to closely examine this as we go through the budget. It’s imperative we look at the priority list and see where it falls. I can’t say enough about [CASA’s] efforts and programs.”

Because CASA’s services are largely preventative, you “can’t measure the impact of the benefit internally to these kids who have been affected. That’s our responsibility in going through all this,” Cardillo added.

CASA officials said the organization plans to alleviate the 2018 shortfall by eliminating its full-time executive director position and cutting some other operational costs. Those cuts will reduce the organization’s budget from $160,000 to $115,000.

The group will need approximately $75,000 from the school district to pay a prevention provider as well as additional funds to give the employee health insurance.

The school district currently provides $25,000 per year to CASA.

The group puts on three assemblies a year at Manhasset schools on the risks of substance abuse. It also provides programming for addiction prevention events at the school like Red Ribbon Week and Drug Facts Week as well as regular parent education gatherings called CASA coffees.

A 2015 study by CASA found that 65 percent of Manhasset 12th graders reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. Almost 30 percent of Manhasset 12th graders reported using e-cigarettes or marijuana in the past 30 days.

“I hope the community will recognize the importance of a prevention provider because it’s prevention that can help us avoid the tragedies we read about in the news,” said DeSena, who took over as executive director in November.

“Health and wellness of kids is important,” she added. “It’s worth something, just like academic performance is worth something. Health and wellness lasts a lifetime.”

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