SALINAS VALLEY — Sun Street Centers received $49,417 in federal grant money to support its education and addiction treatment programs, announced Congressman Jimmy Panetta earlier this month.
Sun Street Centers, based in Salinas, provides services for education, prevention and recovery for alcohol addiction and substance abuse.
“During this bruising pandemic, we’ve unfortunately seen the increased challenges that some in our community face as they battle addiction,” Panetta said. “As a member of the Congressional Bipartisan Opioid Task Force, I’m proud to announce this federal funding for Sun Street Centers that will support their critical work. It takes all levels of government to help ensure that those in our community can access the services that they need to get on and stay on the road to recovery.”
The money came from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration at the federal level, with Sun Street having applied for the funding two years ago.
Anna Foglia, CEO of Sun Street Centers, explained the funding was frozen, as she wasn’t aware of an entity having received the money, but that Panetta worked to get those funds released.
“Substance abuse prevention has never been more critical than today,” Foglia said. “The effect of Covid-19 and shelter-in-place orders have left students frustrated and vulnerable. Unfortunately, many have turned to alcohol and drugs to deal with their confusion. The rise of overdoses among young people in Monterey County is one sad indicator of this.”
The money is planned to fund operations for the PARTS coalition, which stands for Preventing Alcohol Related Trauma in South County, spearheaded by Sun Street. It is a group of agencies, volunteers and youth who get together to meet monthly to discuss strategies, which have taken place virtually due to pandemic health guidelines.
“The Sun Street Centers’ PARTS Coalition has embraced telehealth as an opportunity to bring volunteers, parents, students and agencies together across the county to come up with strategies to support students and parents during these unprecedented times,” Foglia said. “The federal government recognizes the needs of students to find outlets, besides abusing alcohol and other drugs, to address the unexpected mental health issues in families created by the education, employment and health crisis we are all living through.”
Foglia said the funding will be used by the PARTS Coalition to directly impact as many families as possible in Monterey County. She noted treatment is expensive, but not as expensive as incarceration, which is where getting outreach to youth to work toward a better society is key.
The online meetings started with a handful of people, but have increased to at least 40 youth per meeting, Foglia noted.
“We’re going to increase our presence and increase the number of people that participate,” she said. “If I look at the students, for instance, we’ve tripled the number of students participating in our Safe Teens Empowerment Program steps.”
Foglia emphasized the importance of addiction and abuse prevention and treatment as the pandemic continues to cause societal complications.
“It will all be documented and it won’t be good news in the coming years,” Foglia said of the long-term perspective. “We know it’s happening because we’re already hearing back from the people. We’re trying to get ahead of it because that’s what prevention is all about.”
Sun Street has also expanded its operations in King City, with the ongoing construction of a Sober Living Center on Broadway Street. Foglia said construction was met with delays due to the pandemic affecting contractors.
“That’s what Covid does,” Foglia said. “You have the plans and you have the money and then the manufacturing is the problem because Covid is hitting all areas of business in our country. We’re going to persevere and keep moving forward.”
While the larger construction has hit a delay, Foglia said the King City location has seen the opening of an apartment unit that hosts two people at once, alternating between two men and two women. She noted four people have successfully completed 90-day stays and went on to find permanent housing, with another person having begun a stay.
“Those are four people who are no longer homeless,” Foglia said. “We’re doing a sober living environment in that apartment. Once we get the house, we’ll be able to add eight more beds for a total of 10.”
She said construction will be ongoing for a year and a half to two years, as the funding is in place for the sober living environment, but more money is being sought for a recreation center and family community room. Following that, Sun Street will seek funding for a youth center.