Local task force has been fighting underage drinking and substance abuse

Front: Marion County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (SAPC) Co-Chair Tristen Cope, SAPC Mobilizer Dana Suderman. Back: SAPC Co-Chair Ashley Gann, SAPC Executive Director Terry Bebermeyer, SAPC Mental Health Representative Kaycy Putter SAPC Event Coordinator Adrien Piercy. Officers from Marion County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition attended an annual conference recently.

While many in Marion County are unaware of the existence of the Marion County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (SAPC), the group has been hard at work.

SAPC serves to support the prevention of underage drinking and substance misuse in Marion County. SAPC’s mission was first birthed in 2010 under the Families And Communities Together (FACT) organization and has since developed into a task force comprised of countywide members from 12 sectors, all working together to produce positive change in the Marion County community.

SAPC diligently works within the five school districts of rural Marion County, partnering

with the various law enforcement agencies, Prairie View Mental Health Center, Marion County Health

Department, K-State Research and Extension and other local, county and state entities.

“I think it’s important for the public to know that we do have drug issues whether it be alcohol or substance misuse within the county for the underage population. In the past, a lot of us just buried our heads and thought it doesn’t happen here. But it does,” said SAPC Director Terry Bebermeyer. “I think people are starting to come to realize that. SAPC’s whole purpose is to help people realize that and to do what we can as far as avoiding the problems and preventing abuse or even addiction.”

Bebermeyer points out that the problem is not just confined within the limits of alcohol and substances but also how mental health plays a part in all of that.

“It’s about how they kind of co-occur as a result of each other,” said Bebermeyer.

Much of SAPC’s prevention efforts have been realized through various grants awarded to SAPC,

including the Drug-Free Communities Grant, The Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act

Grant, DCCCA Opioid Grants, SAMSHA Communities Talk About Alcohol and Drugs Grant and the Kansas Prevention Collaborative Implementation Grant.

While administering these grant strategies, SAPC has coordinated and implemented several youth

and community events. SAPC strategically launched its campaign of “Every Choice Matters” to increase its community presence and create awareness of its mission.

In addition to grant funds, SAPC manages the Marion County Special Alcohol Tax Fund and any

grants received by FACT for the coalition. Any group wanting to apply for funds must complete a request form and submit it to SAPC for approval. These funds subsidize youth substance abuse prevention programs, Marion County school district after-prom events, Red Ribbon Week Events, youth centers, Town Hall meetings, law enforcement narcotics training, professional development for coalition members and any other events or activities that promote healthy behaviors for youth.

Another of SAPC’s key strategies is teaching the Too Good For Drugs curriculum in Marion County

schools that equips students and families with the tools to make meaningful life choices with a focus

on substance abuse avoidance.

SAPC bases its programs on local and state research. The coalition utilizes the Kansas Communities That Care Student Survey data which is completed in all five Marion County school districts as well as school districts across the state of Kansas.

SAPC has been successful in its work. From 2020 to 2024, the Kansas Communities That Care Student Survey reported a 12% decrease in alcohol use among 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grade students in Marion County. The study also showed a 3% deduction in marijuana use.

In 2020, over 75% of Marion County Youth in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 reported that if a minor drank any alcoholic product within the confines of the county, he or she would not be caught by the police. Over half of these youth now recognize that consumption of alcohol would likely result in interaction with law enforcement.

Nearly 60% had reported that if a minor smoked marijuana within the confines of the county, he or she would not be caught by the police. Two-thirds of these youth now understand that drug use would likely result in interaction with law enforcement thanks to SAPC’s efforts.

“I think that we are making strides in getting people to understand that there is a problem and what can be done and to be aware of the issues,” said Bebermeyer.

SAPC will focus future efforts on decreasing the percentage of Marion County Youth reporting they think there will be no risk of harming themselves if they drink alcohol regularly.

SAPC continuously strives to positively impact Marion County and values feedback from community

members as it endeavors to meet its goals.

“We are growing as a coalition, and more and more people seem to be getting involved. We never stop looking for people to be a part of the coalition,” said Bebermeyer.

If interested in serving on SAPC or for more information, please contact Bebermeyer at fact@usd410.net or call 620-947-3184.

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