A grant program that pumps more than a half-million dollars into Mecklenburg County agencies for substance abuse education and treatment is preparing to grow again.
The money comes from what might seem like an unlikely source the sale of alcoholic beverages.
And officials say they are trying to widen the programs impact.
The ABC Education Grant program accounted for $685,000 this year, and we expect it to be even larger in the coming fiscal year, said Mary Ward, community relations director for the Mecklenburg County Alcohol Beverage Control Board.
Part of the purpose of the ABC Board is to provide help for those who abuse alcohol, and Ward said the boards directors decided in 1996 that some of the profits from the sale of beverages could help with substance abuse treatment and education.
It started with $80,000, but it has grown to involve 17 partners, Ward said.
Mecklenburgs ABC Board will begin the grant application process in April, with grant winners to be announced before the new fiscal year starts July 1.
One current recipient is InnerVision, which operates within the shadows of Time Warner Cable Arena and the Transportation Center on East Fourth Street, providing daily counseling for clients who have substance abuse and mental health issues.
Medicaid doesnt pay for the substance abuse aspect of our treatment, said InnerVision director Cheryl Nicholas, whose agency is in its 10th year and has been receiving ABC grants the past three years. With the ABC grant, were able to address both issues simultaneously.
Nicholas said being able to deal with both issues is a big help in treating clients.
Ward says recipients can get up to $50,000 a year, and she says much of the money is spent on substance abuse counselors.
That need figures to grow in the coming year, as substance abuse treatment is among many victims of the federal sequestration budget cuts. Much of the outpatient funding for people who are facing federal indictments and have substance abuse problems is being eliminated. That will add more pressure on local agencies for treatment.
The (ABC) grants help put people to work, Ward said.
Another recent budget cut eliminated money to provide clients at the McLeod Treatment Center with educational books.
An ABC grant provided money for a small agency, the Twelfth Step Service Club, to provide those books.
ABC boards across the state are required to allocate 7 percent of profits for substance abuse education and treatment programs. The potential pool of money for the 2013-14 fiscal year got a boost from events such as the Democratic National Convention and the CIAA Tournament.
The money doesnt come strictly from retail sales from sales at the ABC stores, Ward said. The tourism side is important.
She said the ABC Board wants to reach more organizations in the coming year.
I think a lot of people arent aware of the grants and the education programs, she said.
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