DFW’s Southern Star continues to grow at a fast pace as more and more families and businesses set their sights on the city tucked away in northwest Ellis County.

As city officials map out a plan focused on economic growth and development, some resident leaders have mapped out a program of their own to address “key issues in our community that potentially hinder our effectiveness.”

The framework for this community-involved undertaking is The Midlothian Project.

“We have solidified our team leads, and the teams will begin meeting soon,” said Anna Hammonds, who is among the leaders.

At the project’s launch in June, organizers said they had conducted market research through a series of surveys and focus group meetings among community leaders and residents “to determine the greatest areas of need and to develop a series of task force groups to strategize solutions to address these needs.”

Among the four focus areas are substance abuse and treatment because “we have identified challenges with substance abuse, addiction and alcoholism. [...] As well as a lack of available treatments options that are needed to best support those struggling.”

One local organization, however, is dedicated to helping school students struggling with addiction. REACH Council is a nonprofit “prevention agency serving all school districts and communities in Ellis and Johnson Counties,” according to its website.

“Nationally, we’re seeing increases in teen use of vaping, nicotine, as well as the use of marijuana itself,” said Cassie Street, REACH Prevention Program Director and Certified Prevention Specialist. “And, locally, what I’m seeing, what my colleagues, what our teachers and counselors are seeing, is that Midlothian mirrors the national rate.”

Vaping devices and/or electronic cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco products among U.S. middle and high school students, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It exploded this past school year where schools, not just in Midlothian, but across Ellis County and Johnson County, were reporting taking up multiple vaping devices every single day,” Street emphasized. “I had a teacher at another district collect, in one day, she was able to collect 10 vaping devices from her campus, and she has a small campus. So, it’s a growing problem in our area in a way that it hasn’t been in recent years.”

While it mainly targets schools, REACH also partners with workplace and community organizations.

The Midlothian Project highlighted cultural differences as another issue of concern. The goal is to champion “an inclusive community where citizens feel welcomed, safe, respected, and comfortable in being themselves. We have identified a friction or lack of understanding between cultures and groups including different races, socioeconomic statuses, tenured and new community members, and church backgrounds.”

Pastor Demetrius McClendon, who heads ONE Church, is the leader of this task force. He could not be reached for comment.

The remaining focus areas are communication, and services and recreation. To learn more, visit midlothianproject.com.

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Patrick Clarke | @PatrickClarke1 | 469-517-1456