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It may seem like trying to promote substance abuse prevention during a deadly drug epidemic is a no-win task, with few successes to document.
But no matter how dispiriting it may be at times, there is a tested approach to promoting substance abuse prevention, especially by forming coalitions to maximize one’s reach.
That’s the takeaway from a recent Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Training from SAMHSA, conducted by the Public Policy Institute’s Prevention Manager Elysse Chay and Annie Short, Executive Director of the Northeast Wisconsin Area Health Education Center.
The Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Training (SAPST) is a foundational course of study in substance abuse prevention, grounded in current research and SAMHSA's Strategic Prevention Framework. This training prepares practitioners to implement effective, data-driven prevention programs and practices that reduce behavioral health disparities and improve wellness. It is ideally for practitioners new to the substance abuse prevention field and participating in a community coalition dedicated to preventing substance use/abuse.
“There is a logical, systematic way to create a substance abuse prevention strategy that’s right for your community,” Chay said. “The SAPST framework explains how to do it.”
Chay and Short led a four-day SAPST training for PPI grantees, during which attendees learned youth substance abuse prevention basics, engaged in interactive activities, and tested their knowledge with case studies.
Jazzmyne Adams, the new Alliance for Wisconsin Youth Southeast Region Prevention Coordinator and a graduate student at the UW-Milwaukee Zilber School of Public Health, said the training helped her to better understand youth substance abuse risk and protective factors.
“I knew about them before the training, but not in the context of what they look like in real life,” Adams said.
She said she benefited from learning how to create a strategic action plan before launching it to ensure that the plan has concrete goals, effective tactics, and measurable results.
“If you want to develop a plan to combat youth substance abuse in your community, this material will help you discover what your plan should look like and what you should be thinking about, all the way from planning to implementation and evaluation of your plan,” Adams said.
John Eshun, the new 53206 Drug-Free Communities Project Coordinator, said SAPST complemented his training as a community organizer.
“The strategic prevention framework is very similar to community organizing but it’s specifically about substance abuse prevention,” Eshun said. “But this training will help me specifically in my work in the 53206 neighborhood.”
Eshun said learning about SAPST’s logic model will have a great impact on his work in the 53206 community.
“First you need to assess what is happening and identify some of the risk factors and go from there,” Eshun explained. “For example, there’s a lot of things that people are saying about 53206 but it’s good to have a really intimate knowledge of the people I’m working with to get down to the two or three pervasive risk factors. When people talk about 53206, it’s always, ‘There are so many problems, where do we start?’ But there are two or three underlying issues that we can really get at. This will help me to focus on them.”
Joshua Jenkins, a Public Ally who helps Eshun on the 53206 DFC Project, said his biggest takeaway was learning more about how communities work, as well as the impact of trauma on at-risk youth.
“I think it was great for me,” Jenkins said. “I had an adequate knowledge of these topics but the training expanded and amplified it. So when I interact with students, the conversation will definitely be a lot different. And I learned how to work with other groups in the community and understand their partnership, if it’s a networking thing or a collaboration.”
Want to learn more about Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Training? Email Elysse Chay at email@example.com.
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