SUMMIT COUNTY — The Summit County Sheriff’s Office and several northeast Summit County police departments are among more than 150 law enforcement agencies in the state to share in more than $3.5 million in funding from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for drug education programs.

"The funds must be used to establish or maintain drug abuse prevention education and awareness programs for students during the 2018-2019 school year," says the AGO in an Aug. 22 media release.

According to the AGO, the sheriff’s office is receiving just under $80,000, the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department is receiving $2,360, the Stow Police Department is getting about $14,500, and the Twinsburg Police Department is receiving just over $30,000.

Sheriff’s Inspector Bill Holland said the sheriff’s office will use its portion to help pay for its DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.

"It continues to be a good program," said Holland.

The sheriff’s office operates DARE in several county school districts, including Nordonia Hills, Coventry and Green, and in a number of private schools, including Immaculate Heart of Mary in Cuyahoga Falls and St. Barnabas School in Northfield Center. Holland said the sheriff’s office has two DARE officers and the grant helps pay a portion of time that they spend teaching and for supplies.

Other police departments said they use the money in similar ways.

Twinsburg Assistant Police Chief Bob Gonsiewski said the department has two school resource officers, one of whom is also a DARE officer, who teach drug education classes in the schools.

"This is money we get generally every year. We apply for it every year," said Gonsiewski.

Stow Police Chief Jeff Film said the money pays 50 percent of the cost of the time its DARE officer and school resource office spend in class, as well as for supplies.

"I know a lot of communities have given up on the DARE program," said Film. "I’ve talked to the school administration and teachers. They are very pleased with the DARE program in the city and I think it’s a great program for us to reach out to the children and show them we are approachable and that we are here to guide them and help them grow up."

Stow DARE Officer Jim Barker, who applies for the grants every year, said he teaches 10-week courses to Lakeview Intermediate School sixth-graders.

"It’s all about safe and responsible choices," he said. "DARE’s got this big myth that it’s just about drugs. It’s not just about drugs. They’ve changed the curriculum. I’ve been teaching this since 1994 so I’ve been teaching a long time and it’s gone through a series of changes on the lesson plan. It’s now geared to making responsible choices. It’s talking about risk, stress, communication, peer pressure and also we talk about drugs."

Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Jack Davis said the grant pays a portion of the time the department’s two school resource officers spend in the classroom as part of the "Not Me, I’m Drug Free" campaign, a partnership of the mayor’s office, the police and fire departments, the Cuyahoga Falls and Woodridge school districts and Western Reserve Hospital.

"We’re very happy that we were able to get that from the attorney general’s office," said Davis. "It helps us continue the program and we try to do as much as we can. Every little bit helps."

Grant recipients are required to include over-the-counter and prescription drug abuse prevention education in their programs.

"Age-appropriate substance abuse prevention education every year, at every grade level is key," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. "Evidence-based prevention education helps students develop the skills they need to make good decisions, stay drug-free, and live healthier lives."

DARE programs and school resource officer drug use prevention programs were eligible to apply for the grants, and all programs must be conducted in cooperation with the public school superintendent of each school district where the programming will take place.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.