The Dukes County Health Council Youth Task Force has hired Theresa Manning, who long has worked with children and families on the Vineyard, as youth task force coordinator.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office recently awarded the task force a one-year, $90,000 grant. The grant will be used to target seventh and eighth grade students and their parents as a first step toward mobilizing the Vineyard community in preventing sustained substance abuse.

Ms. Manning, who lives in Aquinnah, comes with 13 years’ experience working with children and families in the Vineyard community. From 1999 to 2003, she was program director for Big Brothers Big Sisters where she was responsible for all operational and financial aspects of their mentoring program. From 2003 to 2006, she was the social service coordinator for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) where she developed a youth group, planned monthly family activities, and participated in the development of their after-school and summer programs.

The health council formed the task force in 2004 in response to concerns over findings of youth risk behavior surveys for 2000 and 2002. The surveys found levels of substance use and other risky behaviors among Vineyard youth significantly higher than state and national levels.