Stopping drug and alcohol abuse is no laughing matter in Prince George’s County - it’s a singing one.
The county’s health department has launched a new $200,000 antidrug outreach effort aimed at getting youths and young adults to write and perform a short antidrug rap or song for cash prizes and bragging rights.
County resident between the ages of 13 and 24 are challenged to come up with an original rap, song or poem that goes along with one of multiple generic beats made available for the contest through the Web site givedrugsabadrap.com.
“We’re really excited about that campaign,” said Pamela Creekmur, the county’s acting health officer.“We really want kids to know their options not to use drugs or tobacco.”
Between June 18, when the contest began, and Monday around a dozen people have submitted videos for the contest, said Mary Ellen McCormack, an account manager with LMD marketing, a Laurel based marketing firm that helped to arrange the contest for the county’s health department.
Those interested have until Sunday to submit a video performing the song online. Videos will be voted on online, with the top 10 finalists winning an opportunity to have their song professionally recorded, McCormack said.
The competition’s top three vote getters will compete in an American Idol-style competition, where their songs will be screened before a crowd. Whoever’s song receives the most applause will win the title and a still to be determined prize, McCormack said.
A location and date for the final award were still being determined, McCormack said.
The contest marks a first of its kind push by the county towards a social networking contest, said Candice Cason, manager of the county health department’s division of addiction and mental health.
The department opted to try this outreach approach earlier this year after Maryland’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration permitted Prince George’s and other counties to use funding it provides to them in new and different community outreach methods, Cason said.
In April, the health department partnered with LMD, which soon led to a partnership with radio station WKYSS to both sponsor and promote the contest, Cason said.
The contest comes as volumes of studies show that ads and speeches that speak to youngsters about the dangers of substance abuse don’t work as persuasively as peer-to-peer advice, Cason said.
“It’s really kids talking to kids,” McCormack said. “Hopefully, they’ll find hope and inspiration from that.”