Photo provided by Rhonda Torrence -- East Feliciana Drug and Alcohol Awareness Council Grant writer Deborah Thomas, EFDAAC sponsor and District Attorney Sam C. D’Aquilla, EFDAAC chairwoman Rhonda Torrence and co-chairman Rickie Collins, from left, celebrate receiving a $650,000, five-year grant by attending lunch in Clinton Sept. 24.

The East Feliciana Parish Drug and Alcohol Awareness Council has been awarded a $625,000 national service grant.

The money will be distributed over a five-year period, council officials said.

The grant, awarded by the Drug Free Communities Support Program on behalf of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in cooperation with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is to establish and strengthen community efforts to prevent youth substance use, said Rhonda Torrence, of East and West Feliciana District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla’s office, which sponsors the council.

Established in 2010, the East Feliciana Drug and Alcohol Awareness Council brings awareness to youths, teens and their parents about the dangers of drug and alcohol use and abuse and works to educate them on the importance of making positive decisions, a news release said.

The council provides community programs that bring awareness to residents of all ages.

The EFDAAC also provided services in the East Feliciana school system, bringing speakers into the schools, taking students on field trips and mentoring young men, Torrence said.

“The mission of the council is directly aligned with the purpose of the federal grant funding,” Torrence said. “To be awarded such a sizable grant is an extraordinary achievement for the council. Many months of research, meetings, education, interviews and data collection from the Caring Community Youth Survey went into the application process for this grant.”

The EFDAAC first applied for the grant in 2013 and received “an extremely high rating, although the grant was awarded to another group,” Torrence said.

She said the council was urged to apply again in 2014 based on its performance the previous year.

Torrence credited grant writer Deborah Thomas, Ph.D and EFDAAC board member, with preparing the data needed for the grant.

“For a group in its fourth year of existence to receive such funding is certainly an honor as well as a great opportunity for the community. We can now provide public awareness about the dangers and misuse of drugs and alcohol and institute programs on a much more comprehensive basis,” Torrence said.

Torrence said the grant money will be used within East Feliciana Parish to develop public service announcements and install electronic billboards to carry out media campaigns; install prescription drop boxes in strategic locations; provide education and training to alcohol vendors, retail outlet owners and employees prior to implementing alcohol compliance checks and sobriety check points; distribute educational material to increase awareness of consequences related to prescription misuse and abuse; train drug council coalition members with subsequent prevention certification and licenses; and increase community readiness.

Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office contacted the council Sept. 22 to congratulate it on the achievement, she said.

To date, the council has operated solely from a budget based on donations and fundraising events, she said.

“The parish of East Feliciana is very fortunate to receive such funding, which will provide the council with the resources to further its mission and spread the message of the many risks that are associated with the misuse and abuse of drugs and alcohol,” Torrence said.