Epidemiological workgroups gather, collect, and analyze data that states, tribes, and jurisdictions (STJs) need to make vital decisions about substance abuse prevention programming. To support them in their work, two SAMHSA contractors—the Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT) and the State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup (SEOW) contract—are working closely to ensure that these groups are equipped with the tools they need.
Epidemiological workgroups—comprising data experts from across substance abuse, health, justice, education, social service, and mental health fields—operate within STJs, helping them and their communities understand and interpret data related to substance misuse and other behavioral health problems, and integrate these data into their ongoing assessment, planning, and monitoring decisions.
To help workgroups identify and access these data in a systematic way, epidemiologists working under the CAPT and SEOW contracts have begun compiling a comprehensive list of behavioral health indicators (BHI)—factors that indicate the presence or absence of a behavioral health problem. Working with representatives from SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, they have spent the past six months compiling, reviewing, and evaluating hundreds of indicators related to substance misuse and related mental health issues.
“Substance abuse and mental health problems often co-occur,” explains CAPT Epidemiologist Carol Hagen. “They share many risk and protective factors. To adequately address these factors, epidemiological workgroups are looking for data that span multiple areas of behavioral health. The SEOW and CAPT contracts are helping with this process by identifying key data sources and indicators and assessing their availability to STJs and communities.”
SEOW Contract Administrator Alisa Male concurs. “Our work brings to the forefront the importance of monitoring and surveillance of these indicators at both the State and community levels. Looking at both mental health indicators and substance abuse indicators helps complete the behavioral health picture for the STJs.”
In addition to developing a BHI framework, epidemiologists from the CAPT and SEOW contracts meet regularly to plan and present webinars that address identified workgroup needs, such as creating user-friendly epidemiological profiles, developing culturally competent approaches to collecting and presenting data, and accessing data related to prescription and synthetic drug abuse. They are also working closely to feature the work of the epidemiological workgroups on the CAPT website.