November 3, 2012

By Laura Rappaport
Saratoga Wire

Facing the end of two major government grants and severe cuts in programs, the Prevention Council has moved to a smaller, cheaper office space.

The move from a spacious suite on Phila Street to tighter quarters on High Rock Avenue will save the agency some $35,000 a year in rent, and is a stark reminder of the challenges this non-profit community-based organization will face in the next few years.

And it’s why this year’s One Stop Holiday Shop fund raising event is more important than ever, officials say. The luncheon takes place Sunday at Longfellow’s Restaurant from noon to 3 p.m.

A fashion show, gourmet luncheon, and holiday retail event, the One Stop Holiday Shop will showcase an eclectic mix of fall, winter, and holiday clothing and gifts from local boutiques. Tickets are $50.

The new space in the Mill office building is a lot smaller than the agency’s old digs in the building next to Ben & Jerry’s. But, says Executive Director Heather Kisselback, it had to happen. “It’s a huge adjustment for everyone, but my goal was to not lay off people.”

The Prevention Council, with a $1.5 million budget, serves as a kind of umbrella group to a number of grant-funded programs and community coalitions aimed at helping kids make healthy choices. Most of the funding comes from the state and federal governments, which have faced their own cutbacks and are reducing funding to prevention programs.

The council’s slogan, “Helping youth navigate life’s changes” describes its mission: educating kids about the dangers of using tobacco, drugs and alcohol, as well as learning how to combat bullying and other risky behaviors. Its service area spans Saratoga County, from Edinburgh in the north to Clifton Park in the south.

It hosts and funds the Saratoga Partnership for Prevention – a communitywide prevention coalition, as well as a new prevention program in the Shenendehowa School District, and also the Southern Adirondack Tobacco-Free Coalition, committed to tobacco use prevention.

In addition, the Prevention Council runs in-school programs in 12 school districts in the county. Educators go from classroom to classroom with their Too Good for Drugs and Too Good for Violence programs. This recently replaced DARE in Saratoga Springs schools.

The Partnership for Prevention, funded by a 10-year federal Drug Free America grant, ends next September, while the Shenendehowa program is funded by New York’s Prevention First fund and ends in 2014.

“The goal is to get the coalition to keep going after (our funding) is gone,” Kisselback says.  “We hope the community will find money to sustain it … Sustainability is hard, especially now when nobody has money.”

Kisselback says prevention programs work. She points to a 20 percent drop in drinking among Saratoga High School teens who have been surveyed every two years for the past eight years.  “Kids actually do listen to our message, even if they pretend not to.”

The tobacco-free coalition is equally vital, says its spokesman, Matthew Andrus. Smoking prevention and awareness programs face stiff cutbacks even as the state brings in billions in tobacco revenues. Andrus points out the that state has made $10.5 billion from tobacco taxes and other money in the last six years, yet in the past three years funding for anti-smoking programs such as cessation and youth prevention has been slashed by 50 percent.

“In the current fiscal year, New York state will spend a mere two percent of tobacco revenues on tobacco control,” Andrus says. He emphasizes that smoking prevention efforts cost the government much less money than all the health problems caused by smoking.

Many expect non-profits to do their own fund-raising to pick up where government leaves off. But, these activists say, private funds cannot possibly make up for the loss in government funding.

Sunday’s One-stop Holiday Shop is a way for the local community to support prevention programs.

Businesses participating in the event include: Spoken Boutique, Rockabella, Fusion The Salon, Violet’s and Stella’s, The National men’s clothing shop, Alpine Sport Shop, Karalina’s, Spa Cascada, Little Red Millinery, Mountainman Saratoga Outfitters, and others.

Guests are invited to shop at these retailers’ tables throughout the day, and to enter for chances to win tons of great giveaway items.

The fashion show will take place during a three-course luncheon; items will  modeled by local “personalities,” including Lake Avenue Elementary School Principal Barbara Messier, Putnam Market co-owner Gloria Griskowitz, YNN’s Marcie Fraser, HERLIFE Magazine owner Angela Beddoe, STAR 101.3’s Fran Dingeman and her daughters, and The Toga Tattlers and their families.

For more information about the Prevention Council, click here.