Partners in Routt County gets federal grant for kids impacted by opioids, poverty |

Partners in Routt County gets federal grant for kids impacted by opioids, poverty

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Partners in Routt County has been awarded a three-year grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The grant, for about $1.2 million spread over three years and across six Colorado organizations, will be used to support youth mentoring programs, specifically for youth impacted by opioids and other drug addiction in their families.

Michelle Petix, executive director of Partners in Routt County, said the federal funding is especially meaningful to Routt County due to its small population and rural nature.

“OJJDP has a long history of supporting mentoring efforts, but they’re federal, so they’re not going to give a grant to little Routt County,” Petix said.

The grant was specifically written for “rural and other underserved communities hit hard by the opioid epidemic,” according to a news release from Partners in Routt County.

Petix also said poverty and opioid addiction are two problems Routt County deals with just as much as other counties, but the problems are often less visible due to tourism and the expensive nature of the county.

“We are the healthiest community in the country, but we define healthy so much by image,” she said. “There is a need for this in this community.”

The money will specifically be used for kids who need mentoring, which Petix said is necessary to provide equity for children who are often experiencing poverty and, therefore, not receiving the same opportunities and benefits as their more affluent counterparts.

“A poverty gap mirrors an education gap,” Petix said, adding children in affluent families often have advantages of parents being able to help with homework because they’re not working multiple jobs or being able to hire a tutor because they have the money to do so. “Everyone deserves a caring, consistent adult in their life.”

Willa Seybolt, communications and operations manager at Partners in Routt County, echoed Petix’s thoughts and said the concentration of wealth in the Yampa Valley often means children experiencing poverty are overlooked.

“There’s a lot more going on in the community than meets the eye, and I think a lot of kids can really benefit from this funding,” she said. “This grant is really exciting because we’ll be able to serve a faction of the community that maybe doesn’t get enough attention.”

While Partners provides services rather than goods such as food and clothing, Petix said a support system for children is just as vital to their growth as having their physical needs met.

“Everyone just needs a little more support, that’s what mentoring is,” she said. “We specifically target those services for youth who we need to even the playing field for, who are facing these extra challenges.”

Mentoring will be offered to kids ages 7 to 17, and Partners will be working with affiliates across Colorado on using the grant money for children in need.

Statewide organizations also applauded Partners in Routt County for their efforts and said the grant will be helpful for an often overlooked community.

“We are thrilled that OJJDP is recognizing and funding these youth mentoring organizations in Colorado,” Mentor Colorado Executive Director Hannah Krieger said in a written statement. “FRIENDS FIRST and Partners in Routt County exemplify quality mentoring and will be providing critical services and connection at a crucial time for our young people.”

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