FVSU’s TEARS2c program receives $900,000 to expand STD and Alcohol Awareness Program to Bibb County


October 8, 2015 – A new federal grant will help a Fort Valley State University program to continue to reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and substance abuse within the 18-24 year old minority population. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Division (SAMHSA) awarded FVSU’s Teaching Everyone about the Risks: Community Coalition (TEARs2C) program a $900,000 grant. The agency leads public health initiatives to promote better behavioral health by reducing the impact of substance abuse and mental health issues in American communities. This is the second time that FVSU’s TEARS2c program has received a SAMHSA grant.

The TEARs2C program launched in 2013 to teach individuals about the dangers of substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. In 2014, SAMHSA awarded the program an $880,000 grant to help 18-24 years old African-American and Hispanic residents in Peach and Houston counties learn about the dangers of alcohol abuse and STDs.

The new grant, which will last from a three-year period Oct. 1, 2015 until Sept. 30, 2018, will launch the program TEARS2c Plus. It is an expansion of the original TEARS2c program, and will teach young adults in Bibb County healthy behaviors to inhibit the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Alvin Lindsey is the Principal Investigator/Project Director for the grant. Lindsey says new grant that will help continue the University’s Office of Student Health & Counseling Service’s substance abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention programs in Houston and Peach Counties, while expanding their efforts into Bibb County. The Initiative will receive $300,000 over three years to run the program.

The TEARs2C Initiative originally partnered with community-based partners in Peach County and Houston County. The group included the Phoenix Center Behavioral Health Services, the DUI School of Fort Valley, HODAC and The Links, Incorporated of Fort Valley. Under the new grant, a TEARs2C Plus program will be launched that is designed to reach Bibb County residents. Under the TEARs2c Plus program, new community-based partners will include Volunteer Macon, the Austin Smith Center for Community Development (Shalom Zones), and The Links, Incorporated.

“The grant falls under the Minority/AIDS Initiative MAI grant and focuses on substance abuse, because substance abuse is co-occurring, or syndenmic with HIV/AIDS,” Lindsey said. “We used two community evidence-based practices (EBPs): the Alcohol Literacy Challenge, which is our substance-abuse program. The Video Opportunities for Innovative Condom Education and Safer Sex (VOICES/VOCES) is our HIV Prevention EBP.”

Lindsey said the Alcohol Literacy Program and the HIV/AIDS Evidence Based Program are not the only ways the department helps to reach the 18-24 year old target group.

“Our peer educators allow us to address these and other social determinants of health issues in more creative ways with peer to peer programmatic approaches,” Lindsey stated. “#YW8 is our social media campaign, that encourages individuals to be tested immediately, and falls under our HIV awareness program. Our ‘Mocktails’ (as in cocktails) events promote alternative recipes to alcohol-based drinks and is an activity directly related to reducing alcohol abuse. HIV and AIDS can be directly related to substance abuse. To be holistic, we address programming that may be a consequence or predecessors of HIV and substance abuse such as sexual assault, in our ‘Take Back the Night’ program as well as suicide.”

“The largest success for the program has been the way that the community has embraced it,” Lindsey said. “We started out with three main partners: HODAC, the Phoenix Center and the DUI School of Fort Valley, which led to opportunities for collaboration with The Links, Incorporated of Fort Valley. The NAACP has also come on board because of their initiative called ‘The Black Church and HIV: A Social Justice Imperative.’ We’ve gone into churches and not only talked about HIV and AIDS with congregations, we’ve also done testing on site. For this to be done in a small Bible-Belt community is kind of unheard of. We’ve been fortunate to be able to work with pastors that understand that these are real issues deeply connected to spiritual development. As of now, Central Union Baptist Church in Fort Valley, New Hope Baptist Church in Perry, and the Greater Cathedral of Praise in Fort Valley, GA) have joined in this social movement and tested young people. Others will be approached as many have also expressed an interest. We’ve accomplished this because of the partnerships developed through TEARs2C.

Lindsey says the university has also partnered with North Central Health District who has agreed to come down on Thursdays to conduct HIV testing. The Phoenix Center of Houston County tests students on Wednesday afternoons.

HIV Testing is available two days every week for FVSU students:
• Wednesdays: 10 a.m.-2p.m. for students
• Thursday: 3-6 p.m. for students
Peach and Houston County residents can receive HIV tests by visiting their local health departments.
For details, contact Lindsey at (478) 825-1036 or lindseya@fvsu.edu.

Christina D. Milton, public relations specialist
Marketing and Communications
(478) 822-7589, miltonc@fvsu.edu