A group led by North Memorial Medical Center has won a $625,000 federal grant to fight alcohol and drug abuse over the next five years in four north metro cities.

North Memorial created the coalition of school, health and civic groups in Maple Grove, Osseo, Brooklyn Park and New Hope after noticing some alarming trends among its patients, said Alison Pence, North Memorial's injury prevention coordinator.

"In the past three years we have seen a 41 percent increase to 97 youth trauma patients (ages 15 to 22) who were injured as a result of alcohol use," Pence said. Over the same period, patients ages 15 to 18 under the influence of alcohol had a 30 percent rise in their average blood-alcohol levels to 0.14 percent in 2007, nearly twice the legal limit for adult drivers.

The group plans to create a marketing campaign, including messages on Facebook and YouTube, to counter misinformation about alcohol, marijuana and other drugs, and offer parents tips on improving communication with their children, Pence said. Last year's Minnesota Student Survey showed only about half of Hennepin County parents talked to kids about drug and alcohol abuse, she said.

"The goal of the Partnership for Change Coalition is to help mobilize parents, youth and community leaders to take a stand against drug and alcohol use in Northwest Hennepin County," Pence said. "In the end, we hope to protect the health of the families in our communities and ultimately save lives."

The Drug Free Communities grant will be paid over five years by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The 15-member coalition includes Robbinsdale area schools, Osseo area schools, the New Hope Police Department, Annex Teen Clinic, Fairview Behavioral Services, Fairview Maple Grove Medical Center, Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health, Northwest Hennepin Human Services Council, Brooklyn Park Recreation and Parks Department, AAA Minneapolis, Asian Indian Family Wellness group in Minneapolis, Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove, and the Mosaic Youth Center in Crystal.

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658