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NIAGARA FALLS – The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation has awarded a three-year grant to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to establish “Project Runway,” an effort to reduce drug and alcohol abuse by young women, the medical center has announced.

The target constituency is women ages 14 to 24.

“In 2011, more than 130 women in this age group were treated in our emergency department for symptoms related to alcohol and substance abuse, overdose, addiction or withdrawal,” said Sheila K. Kee, vice president and chief operating officer of Memorial Medical Center.

Kee said there likely is a strong connection between substance abuse and the city’s high teen pregnancy rate, which is nearly three times the Niagara County average.

The goals of the program’s gender-specific efforts are to reduce substance abuse-related emergency room visits by young women by 30 percent and the number sent to Niagara Falls Drug Court by 44 percent over the next three years.