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Martinsburg Nonprofit Receives Funding For Substance Use Prevention, Mentorship Programs

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Eastern Panhandle nonprofit The Martinsburg Initiative is receiving grant money to help at-risk children and families.

The initiative was created in 2017 as a partnership between multiple groups in the area including the Martinsburg Police Department, Shepherd University, the federal Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and the local school system.

“Our funding comes entirely from grant awards and donations,” Initiative Director Margaret Kursey said. “So that is why this is so important, because without this funding, we would not be able to reach children and families.”

The money comes from the New York-based Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts. The Martinsburg Initiative will use the nearly $150,000 grant to expand their operations to the southern part of Berkeley County, funding the salary of another social worker position in Inwood.

Director Margaret Kursey said the group creates after school and mentorship programs to prevent or mitigate adverse childhood experiences like abuse or neglect, which can cause health concerns later in life. That includes an increased likelihood of substance abuse, according to a joint study by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente.

“When a student is identified as high risk, we provide referrals to community behavioral health services, and we start our family and community outreach services,” Kursey said.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources previously labeled Berkeley County as the fourth most vulnerable county in the state to overdose deaths. According to the most recent DHHR data, there were 84 opioid-related overdose deaths in the county in 2021.