In the past, Stanislaus County has used Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants for drug interdiction and enforcement.
This time, the funds – more than $2.1 million – will pay for former Navy SEALs to talk with schoolkids, will send children to outdoor camps and will fund other services to keep teens from straying into a criminal lifestyle.
The state approved a grant application from local agencies, which want to intervene in the lives of young people whose environments make them prone to joining gangs, abusing drugs or becoming violent adults.
Sheriff Adam Christianson said it represents a national shift away from strict law enforcement and criminal justice in favor of early intervention and prevention programs.
The local agencies will receive $715,000 this year and should see the same amount for two more years if the federal funding is continued, said Kara Davis, a Modesto Police Department senior crime and intelligence analyst, who coordinated the application. The agencies include the Sheriff’s Department, Modesto police, the Boys and Girls Clubs, Applied Performance Sciences, the Family Justice Center, Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency, Probation Department and District Attorney’s Office.
In one program, former Navy SEALs will speak at assemblies at every high school in the county on the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Two SEAL reservists trained by John Underwood of the Human Performance Project will share the negative impacts of substance abuse on performance and work in small groups with leadership students.
The instructors explain that one night of heavy drinking negates the effects of two weeks of training. “They actually have the brain science to support it,” said Jennifer Marsh, a drug education and prevention services coordinator for the county. “The kids gravitate to them and are engaged the entire time.”
Applied Performance Sciences has worked with students in the Committed Program at Waterford High School; at Hughson High; and in the California State University, Stanislaus, athletic program, and next will include Patterson High School.
The federal funds also will pay for a probation officer to serve as a liaison between drug enforcement and local prevention services, Davis said. If agents take down a drug lab and find a family or children at the scene, the liaison will refer them to available services.
Helping kids through camps
The Stanislaus Family Justice Center is expected to receive $255,000 over three years. The group serving children affected by domestic violence plans to send 40 to 60 kids to outdoor camps and expand its Art Restores Kids therapy classes to more locations.
Cindy Schneider, the center’s director of community partnerships, said the center is part of a national alliance that runs Camp Hope, where campers can ride horses and enjoy whitewater rafting, activities that build confidence and create memories. Camp Hope is more than a five-hour drive away, one reason the local center is starting its own camp in Mariposa County.
Camp Pacifica will be a weekend camp for Stanislaus County youths. The justice center hopes going to camp will be a life-changing experience, with counselors meeting with their charges during different times of the year.
“We want to connect the kids with relationships that span the camp experience,” Schneider said. “We will measure what the kids are feeling afterwards. Camp also is one of the opportunities for kids to have something to look forward to, and it helps regulate their behavior.”
Research has shown that children who have seen violence at home run the risk of being future abusers, unless there is therapy to break the cycle.
Boost for Boys and Girls Clubs
The grants also will provide $189,000 in support this year for the The Boys and Girls Clubs, plus $120,000 in each of the next two years.
The clubs are at Coleman Brown and Sylvan elementary schools and Somerset Middle School, but the funds will pay for staff members to expand and provide services for other communities. The grant will cover salaries for a program director and part-time youth development specialists and also will cover the cost to buy video equipment, software and recreational supplies.
Lincoln Ellis, chief professional officer, said the clubs provide prevention programs that focus on substance abuse, tobacco use, conflict resolution and improving the academic performance of at-risk children.
Christianson said he was pleased that different groups came together in a successful grant application. “It demonstrates we are doing a terrific job with early intervention, prevention and education,” he said.
San Joaquin County will receive $1,045,625 this year to implement Project Navigate Constructive Change to address gangs and drug-related violence, and offer alternatives to incarceration. Merced County will use $59,845 for prevention and intervention services for gang members who are on probation. According to a press release, justice agencies will work with treatment providers to reduce repeat offenses and “facilitate change.”
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.