County prevention chief heads to Salem

<I>Eagle file photo</I><BR>Kerryann Woomer shows a prevention poster in a photo taken earlier this year

CANYON CITY - There was plenty of cheesecake to go around Dec. 18 as the Commission on Children and Families staff and community members bid farewell to county prevention manager Kerryann Woomer.

Woomer is moving on to Salem to take a position with the Department of Human Services as the project director for the State Prevention Framework Grant.

She'll oversee the dispersal of funds dedicated to underage drinking prevention to eight or nine communities in Oregon, and also will train leaders receiving the grant money.

Woomer spent 14 years in Grant County.

She's been in the prevention field for 12 years and started work in 2000 for the Center for Human Development as a prevention specialist.

She found her years doing alcohol and drug assessment and treatment there "eye-opening."

Most clients had started drinking in junior high or high school only to later be faced with DUIIs and family issues, she said.

For the last four years Woomer oversaw the county's $100,000 a year Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant, working closely with Grant County Safe Communities Coalition and the Commission on Children and Families.

The grant money has helped pay for such things as law enforcement training for underage party dispersal, video cameras, breathalysers; law enforcement patrols of Grant Union High School games; GUHS People Encouraging Prevention (PEP) activities, such as the football tailgate parties; school curriculum; coalition training and alcohol and drug prevention training for the community and professionals; Mothers Against Drunk Driving school presentations; and prizes for the annual youth scavenger hunt.

"The DFC focus changed from direct service to oversight and changing community norms," Woomer said.

For example, she worked with county court to create tobacco-free zones around most county-owned buildings.

"She's been the face of prevention in our county for 12 years," said Dana Brooks, Commission on Children and Families director. "She taught me a lot about prevention."

Of Woomer's new job, Brooks said, "It's such a great opportunity for her to continue the work she started here in Grant County ... on a much bigger scale."

Russ Comer will take over where Woomer left off, assuming the responsibilities of program manager starting in January. He currently works for Community Counseling Solutions as an alcohol and drug counselor.

Debi Hueckman, Safe Communities program director expressed thoughts about Woomer's departure.

"Personally, I'm going to miss her tremendously, and she'll be missed in the community because she's involved in so many things and so passionate about her work," she said.

A favorite memory shared by the two is working with the county's youth.

"She and I both love working with young people and encouraging them on to bright futures," Hueckman said.

"That's what I'll miss the most, is those connections," Woomer said. "This is what my job is all about - that kids could feel safe and talk about issues."

She said prevention is difficult to measure, but she feels the effort is of value.

"If we keep one kid from going down a destructive path, it made our jobs worthwhile," she said. "It's about saving kids' lives, and that's most important to me, ultimately."

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