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updated: 11/29/2013 10:35 AM

Naperville doubling funding for social service programs

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Naperville is doubling the amount of grant money it will make available next year to fund programs that address heroin abuse and suicide prevention.

When the city's new fiscal year begins on May 1, a portion of the $500,000 it is making available will be on its way to organizations such as KidsMatter, the Edward Foundation, 360 Youth Services and the Robert Crown Center for Health Education to continue anti-drug and suicide prevention efforts.

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The city will give the remainder of the money to a total of 22 organizations to fund other initiatives involving career services, mental health, housing, food pantries and transportation.

"It's a substantial amount of money compared to what we were funding in the past," city council member Judith Brodhead said about the social services grant, which had been set at $250,000 a year since it was established in 2005.

National Alliance on Mental Illness DuPage and the Robert Crown Center for Health Education are two grant recipients who will receive $55,500 and $10,200 next year, respectively.

NAMI DuPage will use its funding for an education program in high school and junior high health classes that discusses symptoms of mental illness and ways to get help, Executive Director Angela Adkins said. The program also includes a visit from a teen or young adult who is recovering from mental health issues, and the grant helps provide stipends for the speakers.

The program began five years ago and now is in several schools in Naperville Unit District 203 and Indian Prairie Unit District 204, along with other locations throughout DuPage County. Funding from the city's grant will allow the program, which now reaches roughly 16,000 students a year, to expand, Adkins said.

"It's really a program for prevention because the statistics tell us that at least half of the cases of mental illness begin before age 14," Adkins said.

Funding for the Robert Crown Center for Health Education in Hinsdale will allow the center to film the fourth in a series of videos designed to help parents discuss drug issues with their children, Interim Executive Director Joan Olson said.

A three-part "Helping Your Teen Avoid Heroin: Learning Tools for Parents" series was produced this year. It used $7,000 in Naperville social services funding to create videos about how heroin addiction affects the brain and body, how to understand adolescent development and help teens make healthy choices and how to talk to teens about heroin and other drugs.

"This year's funding is in concert with the efforts to make sure teens and parents in our community are aware of the crisis in prescription pain medication abuse and heroin use," Olson said.

The fourth video will be shot sometime next year during an unscripted focus group among teenagers who will be asked to discuss what they know about drug abuse, what they don't know, and what they wish their parents knew, Olson said. A facilitator will lead the discussion, but it will come from a teen's point of view.

"Our vision is the facilitator will summarize the key ideas expressed and use those ideas to help parents talk to teens," Olson said. "We hope it serves as a catalyst to get families talking."

Other organizations that will receive funding through next year's social services grant include Community Access Naperville, Inc., Community Career Center, DuPage PADS, Ecumenical Adult Care, Family Shelter Service, Literacy Volunteers of America -- DuPage, Inc., Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry, Naperville CARES, Ray Graham Association, Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center, Senior Home Sharing, Serenity House, Teen Parent Connection, Western DuPage Special Recreation Association and YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

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