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Local substance abuse group using grant to prevent kids from getting hooked on drugs

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More than 4,300 people under the age of 21 die every year because of injuries caused by alcohol.

A local group is trying to bring that number down.

The "Partnership for Education and Prevention of Substance Abuse" doesn't just look at alcohol though – it deals with all addictive substances from alcohol and prescription drugs to marijuana and cigarettes.

PEPSA just won a $125,000 federal grant.

Leaders with the partnership say they're using it to keep kids from getting hooked.

Across the country, more than 20 million people have a substance abuse issue. Obituaries show that abuse often leads to death.

Janet Whitfield-Hyduk with the Partnership for Education and Prevention of Substance Abuse is trying to keep young people alive.

"The younger that you use substances, the harder it is as an adult to break that habit and I think the addiction piece comes in when you start using at a younger age,” said Whitfield-Hyduk.

Whitfield-Hyduk says the grant money will be used to train and educate her employees, but she's also making a push to get young people in the community involved.

"What do they think we need to do?” said Whitfield-Hyduk. “What’s going to hit the young people? What we think is going to work may not work."

St. Joseph County Sheriff Bill Redman -- a former DARE officer -- says starting with kids is key. He says there's a lot of misinformation when it comes to drugs, especially marijuana.

"There’s a misconception that, because it’s legal now, that it's not dangerous for you,” said Redman. “We still know that smoking and inhaling anything into your body is unhealthy for you."

Even though his job deals more with the enforcement side of things, Redman still believes in prevention when it comes to substance abuse.

"If we can combat that to begin with, it’s going to help with our arrests, it’s going to keep people out of our jail, and it’s going to help everybody,” said Redman.

The grant is renewable every year for the next nine years.

It is a federal grant, so we asked Whitfield-Hyduk if it would be affected by the government shutdown.

She says the shutdown has nothing to do with the payments, so PEPSA should be just fine.

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