Media Release – August 29, 2018 –

Youth First, Inc. is helping the state of Indiana tackle the opioid epidemic and other drug problems by expanding its evidence-based model of prevention to more schools. Jim McClelland, the Governor’s Director of Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement, announced the partnership Wednesday during a series of news conferences.

“Youth First is one of the state’s key allies in the battle against substance abuse,” said McClelland. “Indiana must attack the opioid epidemic on all fronts, not just through more treatment options and better law enforcement, but also by investing in long-term solutions that reduce drug use among young people.”

McClelland’s office awarded $811,901 to Youth First to grow prevention services in 15 additional Indiana schools across six counties. Partnering schools and private donors in each of the communities are also supporting the expansion.

“Youth First embeds master’s level social workers in schools to become specialized mentors for at-risk students and skilled prevention coaches for parents and teachers,” said Parri O. Black, President & CEO of Youth First, Inc.  “The state’s investment adds 10 more Youth First Social Workers and prevention programs to schools in Daviess, Monroe, Morgan, Orange, Posey and Warrick counties.”

Youth First Social Workers and prevention programs focus on building healthy relationships, fostering readiness to make positive changes, and developing resiliency and other life skills. Research shows that these are the keys to delaying and reducing youth substance use and related risky behaviors.

A decade of data collection and independent evaluations confirm that Youth First’s approach decreases stress and increases skills that help young people succeed in school and in life. The organization’s positive outcomes are driving growth with more schools seeking Youth First’s help to address the growing social and emotional needs of students.

Youth First’s programs and services are now accessible to over 38,000 young people, plus parents and teachers, in 75 schools and 10 counties, up from 58 schools in seven counties last year. The growth is also supported by another state grant through the Division of Mental Health and Addiction that increases services in Evansville-Vanderburgh, North Gibson, Mt. Vernon, and Warrick County schools. In addition, Youth First’s work relies on the investment of many community and private donors, including Lilly Endowment grants recently awarded to several schools.