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February 21, 2014

Reality Check and Rural 3 to compete for grant

By the end of June, Rural 3 for Tobacco Free Communities or Reality Check will go up in smoke, organizers said Wednesday.

The future of the two anti-tobacco programs is uncertain after a recent announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo created an unwanted competition between the two programs, said Aletha Sprague, program director for Rural 3, a Bassett Hospital program. Sprague said the announcement was that the New York state Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Control will award a $325,000 grant to one, and only one, anti-smoking program that serves Delaware, Otsego and Chenango counties.

There are only two such programs, Sprague said: Rural 3 and the youth-led tobacco-control program Reality Check. The grant has created an uncomfortable rivalry between the two programs, she said, because they will be competing against each other for the funding. 

Sprague said after one of the organizations is chosen to receive the grant, the winner will absorb the other’s duties, eliminating the other program. The remaining program will combine elements of both Reality Check and Rural 3, which the state is now calling “Community Engagement,” according to Sprague.

Alison Bruce, program director at Reality Check, said she also feels the consolidation is unfortunate because both programs offer unique content, with Rural 3 focusing more on tobacco-control among adults and Reality Check working with youth. If Reality Check loses out, Bruce said, she could lose her job.

“In the past, we have worked together with Rural 3 toward the goal of creating tobacco-free communities,” Bruce said. “But this will force us to compete.”

Sprague agreed, saying the consolidation of the programs is pitting the organizations against one another. Even so, the funding is a welcome resource, she said, and will be double the amount of Rural 3’s current grant.

“Because of the state budget, our programs have lost some funding in the last few years,” Sprague said. “But the money is there. $2 billion is generated from tobacco taxes.”

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