The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation has awarded a three-year grant to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to establish and operate Project Runway, a community-based program to reduce drug and alcohol and drug abuse by young women.
The program is based on evidence-based research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Center on Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. It will employ gender-specific strategies to both heighten awareness and prevent drug and alcohol abuse among young women ages 14-24 who reside in Niagara Falls.
"Project Runway addresses a very significant health issue in our community," said Memorial Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Sheila K. Kee. "In 2011, more than 130 women in this age group were treated in our emergency department for symptoms related to alcohol and substance abuse, overdose, addiction or withdrawal."
Kee noted that there also is a strong connection between substance abuse and high rates of teen pregnancy. That connection is reflected in the city's teen pregnancy rate, which is nearly three times the Niagara County average.
Project Runway recognizes that unisex prevention programs fail to influence young women. The project will not only build community awareness, but train health care professionals to better recognize the symptoms of abuse in young women and employ a specially trained patient navigator to link teenage girls and young women with a full range of educational and care management services.
"Project Runway will reduce substance abuse-related emergency room visits among teenaged and young women by 30 percent and the number referred to Niagara Falls Drug Court by 44 percent over the next three years," Kee said. "We are grateful to the Tower Foundation for its support of this important public health effort."
The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation seeks to support community programming that will result in children, adolescents and young adults affected by substance abuse, learning disabilities, mental illness, and intellectual disabilities achieving their full potential.