Fountain will be the focus of a first-of-its-kind initiative in the Pikes Peak region aimed at keeping kids and teens from using alcohol, marijuana and opioid-based painkillers.

The five-year program to prevent youth substance abuse comes as dozens of other agencies across the state embark on similar initiatives - each using money collected by recreational marijuana taxes.

In every case, organizers will implement the Communities that Care program - a research-based public health model that involves most of a community's core youth institutions. The goal: Create a stronger sense of family, community and society as a means to prevent kids and teens from using drugs or alcohol.

Studies have shown the program working because it takes a community-driven approach, said Taryn Bailey, El Paso County Public Health's youth substance use prevention planner.

"It's not just working with school officials or just working with families or just working with mental health care professionals," Bailey said. "It's every player in a community that has something to do that could potentially impact youth."

The initiative remains the planning stages, and organizers are seeking participants for a community board that will help guide the initiative. It will meet once a month and help devise an action plan by this summer.

El Paso County Public Health will lead the effort, using a $140,000 grant that ends June 30. Further funding is guaranteed each year through summer 2021, but annual amounts may vary.

Already, several organizations and agencies have become involved, including Widefield School District 3 and Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, the Fountain Valley YMCA, AspenPointe, Peak Vista Community Health Centers, the Pikes Peak Library District, Fort Carson, Fountain city leaders and Fountain and Colorado Springs police.

Fountain wasn't chosen due to its rates of youth substance use, because such localized data doesn't exist, Bailey said.

Rather, public health officials saw Fountain as most likely to be successful in implementing such a program. The area has already passed tobacco retailer policies that limit youth use, and school districts there have been diligent in surveying students on health-related issues.

"You can kind of look at it almost like a pilot," Bailey said. "You want to start somewhere that you think will make a lot of strides pretty quickly."


Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter: @jakobrodgers

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