LOWELL -- The Greater Lowell Health Alliance has secured $200,000 in state funding to award grants for substance-abuse education efforts throughout the region. Groups in Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Pepperell, Tewksbury, Tyngsboro, Westford and Wilmington will be eligible to apply for the grants, which will fund programs that focus specifically on abuse of opiates and prescription drugs. "It's not just an issue that affects the City of Lowell. It's affecting all of the surrounding towns as well," said Kerrie D'Entremont, the executive director of GLHA. She said the priority will educate students on the risks of drugs to prevent addiction among the vulnerable younger population. "It doesn't necessarily affect only the low-income anymore. The opiate pandemic is really affecting young and old. They start by taking pills, they think it's innocent and then it turns into a very addictive problem. Many times it leads to heroin because that's the cheaper option," D'Entremont said. The total will be split between a $100,000 grant and several smaller grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. D'Entremont said the $100,000 grant should be put toward a regional effort to deliver substance-abuse-prevention services. "There's not a lot of health educators in schools anymore, we're finding, so they're looking for outside help to work on this substance-abuse issue," D'Entremont said. "We're hoping if we funnel some money into some of these health educators they can sort of think outside the box to come up with this project." Although most substance-abuse-education efforts target high-school students, D'Entremont said other forms of education are needed for younger students. "A lot of peer-education programs work really well when kids see someone a little bit older than them talking about drugs. Younger kids really look up to kids who are a little bit older than them. Lecturing kids doesn't really work," she said. State Rep. Tom Golden, D-Lowell, pushed for the funding to address an issue that he said demands attention across the country. "We have a flood right now of people who are addicted to prescription drugs. It's more like a tsunami that has hit not just New England, but this entire country," Golden said. By targeting children, Golden said, he hopes the grants will instill the message in young people that prescription drugs are both addictive and dangerous, just as outreach efforts on the dangers of smoking did when he was younger. "Some of these opiate drugs, they are very helpful when taken appropriately, and they can be very helpful when you follow the regimen, but the minute you think you can get off of it puts you in danger, it puts your family in danger and overall the commonwealth, the community and the well-being of the individual in danger, and that's something I'm really striving to try to stop," Golden said. Outreach is part of a process to address the issue of prescription-drug abuse, which also includes treatment for those who are already addicted, he said. "My fear is there's a generation of people that we may have missed," Golden said. "The goal is to stem the tide, but we still have a responsibility to ensure that we give those people an opportunity to get over their addiction." Grant applications are due Friday, Aug. 8, by 5 p.m. for projects to take place between September and August 2015. Recipients, who will be chosen by a review committee, will be notified by Sept. 19.