FORSYTH COUNTY — A newly formed drug-free community coalition that received federal funding to run its program now has a director, and she is already focused on reaching both short- and long-term goals.
Tammy Nicholson was hired to lead the Forsyth County Drug Awareness Council, a group created to advocate for and educate the community on drug and substance abuse in Forsyth.
The council was awarded a $125,000 grant for the next five years, with a 10-year limit, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts.
“The program, a federal program, has data behind it that shows communities where this grant comes into, the drug and alcohol rates go down,” Nicholson said.
Forsyth is among 697 communities funded by the grant program, according to Nicholson.
“We want to turn it into a nonprofit so at the end of the grant we can be self-sufficient,” she said.
Her long-term goals for the group include opening a facility where youth can go to participate in positive experiences, though the type of activities are still in the concept phase.
“Whether it’s arts or activities, it would be a meaningful place outside of the great facilities we already have. A place where a kid can go to avoid a bad situation,” she said.
Another eventual reality she plans to work toward is both a virtual and a physical resource center, where parents and teenagers can find information and outreach either anonymously online or in person at the center.
Though not originally from Forsyth County, Nicholson said she has spent time in the area through her involvement with the Northeast Georgia chapter of the American Red Cross.
Most recently, she served as the Georgia region POC of volunteer connection and the volunteer specialist for the group in metro Atlanta, where she gained experience with motivational leadership, team building, youth development and project management.
“I knew a lot of people here and I really love the area,” she said. “I have a strong passion for making a positive difference in the lives of others.”
A parent recovery network has already been established through drug awareness and prevention efforts in the county. Parents who have kids suffering from addiction meet every Thursday at Creekside Church.
Nicholson said she also is working on a youth development committee, which will meet for the first time in the upcoming weeks.
“The grant requires us to make a sound program to start involving youth into our council,” she said. “Eventually we want to have a peer-to-peer system because some kids are more likely to respond to someone who’s their own age.”
Efforts that can be immediately implemented, she said, is educating teens and the public on the gateway effects of marijuana and being proactive on the heroin epidemic that Forsyth and the surrounding region faces.
Education needs to continue in “helping people understand the importance of doing simple things in the community they have control over,” such as dropping off old and unused prescriptions at the sheriff’s office.
“I don’t know of anybody’s life who hasn’t been touched by addiction,” she said. “I have been touched by addiction like I think every other person has.”
For more information about the Forsyth County Drug Awareness Council, visit forsythcountydrugawarenesscouncil.org or contact Nicholson at (770) 887-1710 or firstname.lastname@example.org.