The Morgan Hill Police Department is getting ready to spend more than a half-million dollars in grant funds devoted to reducing and preventing the use of tobacco and nicotine products among local youth. The grant funds will pay for, among other things, a new full-time school resource officer employed by MHPD.
The California Department of Justice earlier this year awarded the grant to the MHPD through the Proposition 56 Tobacco Law Enforcement grant program. The total funding received by MHPD is $561,649, to be spent over the next three fiscal years.
“This grant is extremely competitive, and the City of Morgan Hill was one of the very few agencies in the state to receive full funding for our grant request,” reads a press release from MHPD.
The grant funding includes salary and benefits for the police department to hire a new school resource officer. This officer’s responsibilities will include holding trainings for students, faculty, and parents in both middle and high school on the dangers of tobacco use; tobacco-related enforcement on school campuses and city-wide; conducting trainings for sworn personnel on tobacco-related issues occurring within the community; and conducting retailer education sessions.
The grant will also pay for overtime hours for police officers and multi-service officers to conduct enforcement activities at parks, events and festivals, the press release states.
The funds will also pay for signage at city parks and facilities, and a unique peer-to-peer education and outreach program, according to city staff. The peer-to-peer program will be designed and implemented by the Morgan Hill Youth Action Council, with messaging intended to reach middle and high school students. “Peer-to-peer programs have proven successful in that educational campaigns of healthy choices and behaviors resonate more with youth than well-meaning adults,” reads the press release.
MHPD is also a sub-recipient of a regional grant from Santa Clara County to conduct operations to curb sales of tobacco products to minors. “Combined, these two grants align and support the city’s ongoing commitment to supporting youth as well as the 41 Developmental Assets promoting healthy youth development,” according to the press release.
Tobacco use by youth and teens has increased significantly in recent years. According to the CDC, in 2015, more than 3 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes. This reflects a 25 percent increase from 2014. Furthermore, the recent passage of Proposition 64 in California, which legalizes the adult use of marijuana, could contribute to smoking both marijuana and tobacco products among youth. A study published by New England Journal of Medicine in 2014 called e-cigarettes a “gateway drug” to nicotine addiction and other addictive drugs.