ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTW) — The University of North Carolina-Pembroke was awarded a $950,000, three-year grant to create a substance abuse resource center.

The university was awarded the grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to create the Southeastern Prevention and Addiction Recovery Resource Center (SPARC) within the College of Health Sciences. SPARC will provide a community-based effort to address the immediate and long-term substance use and recovery needs in the county.  

“It’s starts with who we are trying to help,” Robeson County District Attorney Matthew Scott said. “We are trying to help the citizens of Robeson County. Those who are struggling and battling demons of alcohol abuse, substance abuse and we are trying to bring help and hope to those individuals.”

UNC-Pembroke officials said this effort will be utilizing the needs assessment data from RHCC to determine addictions-related gaps and resources in the county. The first year will focus on coalition recruitment.

The university will lead opportunities for community-based participatory research involving faculty, students, community partners, and community members or recipients of interventions to better understand the substance-related experiences and needs in Robeson County. 

Assistant Professor of College of Social Work, Kennard DuBose said he gave up his career in business to devote 20 years of his life to helping those who were truly in need. He said this resource center will be the avenue to take university expertise out into the community.

“We have students who want to go out and be credential and want to be qualified counselors, addiction counselors in this area, and we want to make sure that we are bridging that gap to make sure that we have an impact in Robeson County as well as the Southeastern region of North Carolina,” DuBose said.

The second and third years will support addictions specialist workforce development needs of the community by giving exam preparation packages to community partners who aim to complete their Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Certified Clinical Supervisor or Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist. 

Valerie Comrie, Program Director at Robeson County Family Treatment Court, said since 2008, she’s seen what recovery can do for families struggling with substance abuse.

“Our families in Family Treatment Court are at risk of losing custody of their children and when you see the children, see their moms transform and see their dads transform it is heartbreaking but also heartwarming at the same time.”