A federal grant of close to $1 million will help Gila County expand its opioid education programs, and part of that outreach will be starting a teen center in Globe-Miami.
The County Board of Supervisors approved the $916,986 grant award from the Department of Justice last month. Gila County Health & Emergency Management (GCHEM) and Gila County Probation will be working together on the grant, which has a performance period of Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 30, 2025.
“Education regarding opioid use is lacking, primarily because the stigma placed on opioid users is still very prevalent in this community,” GCHEM reported to the board. The department seeks to “work in partnership with the Gila County Probation Office, schools, senior centers, treatment centers and community stakeholders to increase awareness of the ongoing opioid epidemic, protect vulnerable populations like the elderly and the youth, and work together to change Gila County for the better.”
Plans to expand that education include a Southern Gila County Teen Center, which the health department would like to model on Payson’s. “I think what has been done (in Payson) is very successful,” GCHEM Health Equity and Prevention Manager Kayle Lathrop, who wrote and submitted the grant application, told the Silver Belt.
“We’re going to emulate it all we can,” added GCHEM Director Josh Beck.
Lathrop said the main goal is to make the new center a safe, comfortable space where teens will want to spend time. It will offer prevention-related classes in addition to activities. Beck said one possible activity was a sports program using video games; they would also like to include an art area. Last week, GCHEM met with an esports organization. “We’re definitely trying to find activities that will help them grow,” Beck told the Silver Belt.
As with any number of enterprises, location is a main concern. “I think that’s the biggest stretch right now, where the space should be,” Beck said at an October Board of Supervisors meeting. “There really aren’t a lot of great spaces. You really want to be close to one of the schools, or both of them, so kids can get to the Teen Center without too much issue.” Beck said the department was in touch with both the Miami and Globe Unified School Districts, and was looking into a potential spot at Miami Jr./Sr. High School. Another possible location, he added, was the shopping center at Highway 60 and Russell Road. Beck said it was a good spot in terms of a central location between the schools, with a drawback being the presence of a liquor store and a marijuana dispensary.
In addition to the two teen centers, the county will work to provide opioid education through classes in Gila County schools for grades K-12.
“We got $1 million for three years to do something down here,” Beck said at the October board meeting. “The grant period started October 1, so we have to hit the ground running. Our goal here is to try to come up with ways we can spend this money so it will help us long-term and not just in those first three years.”