As times change and concerns about drug use grow, the Trumbull Partnership Against Underage Drinking (TPAUD) is expanding its outreach, with help from a $625,000 federal grant.

TPAUD, formed in 2006, is a partnership that includes parents, school staff, community members, and groups like the police and EMS, religious organizations, youth organizations, and many more.

Melissa McGarry, coordinator for TPAUD, said the group applied for the grant from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy back in March and learned it had received it in September.

“This takes us to a whole new level,” McGarry said. “We’ve never had a federal grant before. Only a few districts in the state received this grant, and we did it on our first try.”

It’s a five-year grant, with TPAUD receiving $125,000 each year. The grant will help the group better coordinate its efforts within the community.

“It’s an opportunity for us to put strategies in place to reduce youth substance abuse,” McGarry said. “We are going to do what we’ve been doing the last eight years, around alcohol, but expand our efforts to include marijuana and prescription drug use.”

Part of what TPAUD does is collect data.

“Since we started in 2006 we’ve seen the percentage of kids that report using alcohol in the last 30 days go from 49% to 36%,” McGarry said. “Even the number of students who say they have tried alcohol has dropped. We have started to move the needle — we are seeing changes in attitude, that take time.”

Some of the programs TPAUD runs in town include a freshmen forum, with 90% attendance, where students and parents are given all the information on the potential impacts of underage drinking. The group also works with middle school students and parents. TPAUD has an anonymous tip line, that goes to police, allowing people to report underage drinking parties. Those with information may text “TRPD” to “CRIMES (274637)” with the address of the party.

TPAUD also works with local businesses to make sure they don’t sell or serve underage kids.

Drugs

TPAUD has started to address concerns about drug use in the community, particularly prescription drugs and marijuana. Last February, it unveiled a prescription drug drop box at the Trumbull Police Department. The box allows people to safely dispose of unused prescriptions, before they get into the wrong hands.

“We have to be ready to face the changing trends,” McGarry said. “Eight years ago we weren’t talking about kids abusing ADHD drugs or electronic cigarettes.”

McGarry said marijuana use is also growing, and part of that is a cultural shift — as teens see the drug legalized, they have misconceptions about its safety.

The grant will help the group work more with upperclassman in the high school, providing more programs and speakers at the school.

“One of the greatest assets we have is that we are based in Trumbull High School. We have fantastic kids and parents to work with and the principal is so supportive.”

Part of the process in addressing drug use is educating TPAUD members.

“We are getting ourselves as familiar with drug issues as we are with alcohol,” McGarry said. “We have to keep engaging the public — that is a big piece of this.”

For more on TPAUD, visit Trumbullps.org/TPAUD.html.