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updated: 10/3/2012 3:27 PM

Lake County task force gets grant to target youth drinking, drug use

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A national grant worth $625,000 over the next five years will help a Lake County task force reduce and prevent youth substance abuse and underage drinking, officials said.

The Lake County Underage Drinking Prevention Task Force has received the Drug Free Communities Grant, which includes $125,000 of funding per year for the next five years from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Liz Nelson, a community health specialist with the county. The Lake County award was one of only 60 grants given out nationwide.

The task force is made up of community leaders, parents, youth, teachers, religious organizations, health care and business professionals, law enforcement and the media working together to provide leadership and resources to reduce and prevent youth substance use, according to a release from the organization.

The national grant is the largest amount of funding the task force has received since being formed in 2006 and will allow the group to hire a full-time employee for the first time.

"When so many budgets are getting cut, we've been fortunate to get funding for this," Nelson said. "It's going to give us more access to our target population, so we're really excited about that."

The money will be spent to strengthen alcohol compliance checks for packaged liquor sales across Lake County, as well as to make sure police departments are trained on how to do party patrols during homecoming or prom seasons, Nelson said.

The group will also expand to start raising awareness about prescription drug abuse.

"It's an emerging trend and we've heard about it across the area and the country so we want to stay on top of it," Nelson said. She added that prescription drug use is often a precursor to heroin use, which is a significant problem among young adults in the Chicago suburbs.

"Efforts to keep our youth drug-free are critical to healthy and safe communities," said Mundelein Police Chief Raymond Rose, who co-chairs the task force. "The (grant) recognizes the great potential of Lake County Underage Drinking Prevention Task Force to help save young people's lives."

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