The Martha’s Vineyard Youth Task Force will be able to continue promoting a healthy Island, thanks to a recent grant from the federal Drug Free Communities programs.

Totaling $625,000, to be distributed over a five-year period, the grant enables the Youth Task Force to continue its substance abuse prevention work, co-coordinator Theresa Manning said on Monday. The Youth Task Force was established in 2004 by the Dukes County Health Council after statistics showed substance use among Vineyard youths to be higher on average than state levels. In 2008 the group received its first Drug Free Communities grant. That grant allowed the Youth Task Force to hire co-coordinator Jaime Vanderhoop. Besides the two co-coordinators, the Youth Task Force has a large volunteer community involved in Island-wide efforts to “help kids and families make better choices,” Mrs. Manning said. Some initiatives include sponsoring speaker series, hosting school assemblies, working with law enforcement and towns on substance abuse policies and establishing a Sticker Shock campaign dissuading adults from purchasing alcohol for teens.

The application process for the Drug Free Communities program had become more competitive as a result of sequestration, with more than 400 communities applying for 180 grants, Mrs. Manning said. “We were very concerned about our chances.”

The group’s proven track record helped secure the funding, she said.

“In the initial proposal [five years ago] we proposed that we would bring the high school drinking rate down 10 per cent in five years,” Mrs. Manning said. Biannual risk behavior surveys showed that the drinking rate decreased 13 per cent in four years.

The Youth Task Force is fully funded by grants and has received more than $1.4 million from state, federal and private sources since 2004. In May, the group received a three-year $212,800 grant from the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation to expand its work beyond high school to young adults in the 18 to 26 age range.

“The things that we’ve been doing have shown some success,” Mrs. Manning said.