United Way of Santa Cruz County Awarded $834,075.00 Youth Substance Use Prevention


United Way of Santa Cruz County Awarded $834,075.00 Youth Substance Use Prevention 

 Capitola, California: – United Way of Santa Cruz County has been awarded $834,075.00 for the Elevate Youth California (EYC): Youth Substance Use Disorder Prevention Program. Elevate Youth California, a project of The Center at Sierra Health Foundation under contract with the State of California’s Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), is funded through the DHCS Proposition 64 California Cannabis Tax Fund, Allocation 3, Youth Education Prevention Early Intervention and Treatment Account. United Way of Santa Cruz County is part of the fourth Elevate Youth California funding round.  

For generations, segments of the Santa Cruz County community have been impacted by the War on Drugs, Adverse Community Environments, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (Pair of ACEs).  Research shows a strong connection between the Pair of ACEs/trauma and substance use, involvement in the criminal justice system, and other unhealthy behavior. United Way of Santa Cruz County is working to prevent substance use and increase resiliency in the community by implementing strategies to alleviate toxic stress, such as increasing youth leadership development and civic engagement, increasing access to prosocial activities and positive peer relationships, and creating connections to caring adults. 

The Elevate Youth California grant will specifically support the existing work of United Way’s Youth Programs - Jóvenes Sanos (JS) and  Youth Action Network (YAN). Over the next three years, JS and YAN will partner with local community-based organizations such as the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County, Conflict Resolution Center, Living Evolution, Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Through these key partnerships, youth and families will access free programs and activities that promote healing, resiliency, restoration, youth leadership development, activism, and pathways to higher education. Throughout the programming, United Way will continue to center and amplify the voices BILPOC (Black, Indigenous, Latino, and People of Color) and LGBTQ+ youth and families. 

“We are excited about receiving this award and the investment in youth empowerment, leadership, and development. The Elevate Youth funding gives us the ability to leverage existing funding to increase the impact of our existing work”, said Sarah Emmert, Community Impact Director. 

Youth ages 11-18 across Santa Cruz County will also be able to research and develop solutions to issues impacting youth well-being and mental health. By building relationships with local leaders, youth and adult decision-makers throughout the community can work toward policy, systems, and environmental changes together.

“Mental health is super important to me because it is part of our daily life. It determines how we view ourselves and overall should be very well taken care of. There are many ways we could take care of it, however, we all have different coping mechanisms. Overall, mental health is an important issue and should not be taken lightly”, Emily (Jóvenes SANOS Youth Member).  

Jóvenes SANOS (JS) is a Watsonville-based youth leadership group for high school students working to elevate youth voices to shift the stigma around mental wellness and increase youth access to mental health resources. JS seeks to cultivate peer-to-peer connections and promote hope, healing, and resiliency to create a healthy and thriving culture.

Youth Action Network Santa Cruz County (YAN)  is a youth program that actively works with youth and adults from across Santa Cruz County to ensure that youth voices are included in local decision-making, promote youth well-being and connect young people to resources and opportunities to create positive community change. 

United Way of Santa Cruz County works to create a healthy, thriving, and safe community for all. UWSCC is leading a movement to focus donated resources on programs that have a significant impact within our county; to move the needle by addressing our greatest needs. For more information, please visit www.unitedwaysc.org