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posted: 11/9/2012 1:12 PM

Buffalo Grove's OMNI substance abuse program expands

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Submitted by OMNI Youth Services

Buffalo Grove-based OMNI Youth Services has received a $50,000 grant from the Baxter International Foundation to expand its substance abuse program into three local high schools.

The Seven Challenges program, which assists adolescents and young adults with alcohol and drug use, is being offered this fall in Mundelein High School, Stevenson High School and Vernon Hills High School.

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The program began in 2007 with an earlier grant from Baxter. More than 900 students have participated and is currently in 20 high schools including Buffalo Grove, Wheeling and Rolling Meadows.

"The program has changed the lives of many students and their families," said Andy Greenawalt, president of OMNI Youth Services board of directors and CEO of Emerson Ecologics. "We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Baxter, which allows us to expand into additional communities and serve even more families."

The grant, the largest Omni has received in the last five years, supports an 18-week program that started in September.

All students are given a drug and alcohol assessment to ensure they are appropriate for the program. The challenges provide a framework for helping youth think through their own decisions about their lives and their use of alcohol and other drugs. Counselors teach youth how to identify and work on the issues most relevant to them.

The program is used in schools as an on-site alternative to suspension.

"The Seven Challenges program expands access to health information aimed to help students make healthy choices," said Donna Namath, executive director of the Baxter International Foundation.

Research on the program has shown students experience a reduction in aggressive behavior; improved mental health; decreased criminal behavior; increased knowledge of HIV/AIDS; improvements in relationships with family members and adults; and a heightened level of honesty. Out of those students participating in the program:

• 90 percent will not receive additional infractions from the school or court system.

• 60 percent will report reduced or no substance use at the end of the program.

• 65 percent will report greater understanding of taking responsibility for their own actions.

• 50 percent will show greater recognition of people who they can trust.

For more information, call Brian McKenna at (847) 353-1652 or visit omniyouth.org.

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