Prevention Planning Tool Available (Part 1)
Ask Cindi Geist, C.S.A.P.P., if the prevention coalitions in her midwestern region have always used evidence-based programs to fight alcohol and substance abuse, and she shakes her head no. “But right now they’re our primary focus,” said Ms. Geist, Executive Director of the Regional Prevention Center of Northwest Kansas in Hays.
In the past, she explained, communities simply chose the same prevention programs everyone else was using and hoped they would work.
Now attitudes are changing. The reason, in part, is based on a science-based planning system called Communities That Care (CTC). The CTC system guides communities and states through the process of assessing problems and selecting evidence-based solutions.
Now the CTC system will be more accessible than ever before. SAMHSA has purchased the system from its publisher and made the components available on the Agency’s prevention Web site for downloading and reproduction free of charge.
The goal? To give communities a convenient way to advance SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) (see The Strategic Prevention Framework).
An approach that uses a step-by-step process, the SPF is known to promote youth development, reduce risk-taking behaviors, build on assets, and prevent problem behaviors in all areas of a person’s life—at home, at school, and in the community.
“The addition of this tool to our prevention toolbox will assist in the implementation of the Strategic Prevention Framework,” said Dennis O. Romero, M.A., Acting Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). “That in turn will help us reach our ultimate goal of improving the delivery of prevention services across the Nation and thus improving our communities.”
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A Customized Approach
The CTC planning system guides users through a five-step process that parallels those required by the Strategic Prevention Framework. Communities begin by assessing their prevention needs and the resources available to solve problems.
They mobilize key players, develop a prevention plan, and put evidence-based programs in place. The final step is to
evaluate how well the plan has worked.
The CTC tools now available on SAMHSA’s Web site make it easy for communities to follow these steps. There’s a CTC Youth Survey, which asks middle and high school students questions about their own attitudes toward alcohol, drugs, school, and other topics and the attitudes of their families and communities.
There’s a Communities That Care Prevention Strategies Guide, which walks users through the process step by step and describes 56 proven programs for reducing factors that put young people at risk and increasing factors that protect them. Other resources include a presentation kit, a guidebook to help communities get started, and materials for coalition leaders, participants, and trainers.
For Project Director Patricia B. Getty, Ph.D., the emphasis on tailored tactics rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to prevention is what makes the CTC system so useful.
“CTC teaches that you don’t just say, ‘Hey, this is a neat program. Let’s put it into our community,’ ” explained Dr. Getty,
a supervisory public health advisor in CSAP’s Division of Systems Development. “You have to find out what the specific problems are before you start putting programs in. That’s why a lot of programs haven’t worked in the past—because programs were put in place that weren’t really addressing the real issues.”
But it’s not enough to simply download the materials, warned J. David Hawkins, Ph.D., endowed professor of prevention in the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work in Seattle. Dr. Hawkins and his colleague, Richard F. Catalano, Ph.D., developed the system in the 1980s.
“You can’t just plop a CTC manual down on the desk of the chief of police or a city councilman and say, ‘Here, read this and see if you want to do it,’ ” said Dr. Hawkins. “They may read it if they’re really interested, but most people will need a
good orientation by a trained CTC trainer.”
Fortunately, said Dr. Hawkins, SAMHSA not only made the CTC materials more widely available but also put training resources in place. Last summer, Dr. Hawkins and other CTC experts trained trainers from CSAP’s Centers for the Application of Prevention Technologies. (See Regional Centers Support Communities That Care.)
Upon request, these five regional centers will then train trainers and provide technical assistance in the states. Those trainers in turn will help communities put the CTC system to use.
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