By Dan Campana
Tapping into money seized through drug investigations, the Naperville Police Department has issued a $36,000 grant to 360 Youth Services to further its drug education and prevention efforts among young people in the community.
“This is an innovative partnership that will strengthen our community’s efforts to educate our youth about the dangers of illegal drugs by funding established programs aimed at preventing and ending substance abuse,” Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said.
With its roots established in 1971, 360 Youth Services now offers a variety of counseling, mentoring and prevention programs for school-aged youth, their families and young adults. It also provides housing for up to 60 homeless youths, in addition to coordinating a group of community partners that provide a safe and respectful environment for professionals and community members to network on issues related to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, according to its website.
Harley Jones, CEO of 360, believes the bolstered relationship with Naperville police validates the non-profit’s role as an important prevention education resource in the community.
“These funds represent an important resource for our agency and the work we perform every day with young people about the dangers of using illegal substances,” Jones said.
Officials with 360 said the grant money will go toward implementing the Seven Challenges program in conjunction with its transitional housing apartments. Seven Challenges is a comprehensive counseling curriculum for youth addressing drug use and mental health concerns, while also highlighting the importance of life skills.
“The grant will be able to help our housing staff engage residents who continue to struggle with substance abuse, which is quite common for young people experiencing homelessness,” 360 Youth Services Executive Director Debbie Robertson said.
Robertson noted the funding also allows 360 to work with the Community Alliance for Prevention to enhance “an evidence-based communication campaign focused on safe prescription medication use and disposal for adults and parents.”
“These funds give the Alliance greater reach and effectiveness serving a large geographic area (in) Naperville and the far east region of Aurora,” she added.
Both Jones and Robertson expressed gratitude to the department for its decision to put drug funds toward this partnership. Such money is generated through successful investigations which result in the seizure of cash or assets deemed to be the profits of illegal drug activity. Once obtained, the money is designated to drug education and enforcement efforts.
“This opportunity aligns directly with our department’s mission and values, and allows us to provide much-needed funding to an organization that is working toward the common goal of preventing substance abuse,” Marshall explained.