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SAMHSA News - November/December 2005, Volume 13, Number 6


Making a Difference for America's Youth

More than 500 parents, community leaders, educators, researchers, students, and experts in child development recently participated in the White House Conference on Helping America's Youth, hosted by First Lady Laura Bush at Howard University in Washington, DC.

The conference addressed the challenges facing today's youth and presented programs helping youth avoid at-risk behavior by connecting them with schools, their communities, and their families.

"I'm encouraged by children and community leaders I have met around the country who have the compassion and persistence to help change lives," said Mrs. Bush. "It is very moving and very American. All of us can shape a world in which good values are encouraged and children can hope for a healthy, happy, and more productive future."

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Community Guide

SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W., introduced the Community Guide to Helping America's Youth at the conference. The guide is designed to help communities identify challenges they face and offer specific steps to improve the lives of boys and girls in their areas.

"Just as it is very important for communities to come together to help America's youth, it is important for Federal agencies to work together as partners to support communities," Mr. Curie said.

In April, the White House convened an interagency workgroup of nine Federal agencies to develop the community guide, which is intended to encourage actions in three areas—family, school, and community. The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, Education, Agriculture, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Corporation for National and Community Service helped develop the guide.

Their collective efforts produced a user-friendly, interactive Web site designed to help communities build partnerships, assess community needs and resources, and select programs that work.

"The essential elements of the new community guide mirror the key elements of successful prevention efforts," Mr. Curie pointed out. "These concepts are the core of SAMHSA's Strategic Prevention Framework and its grant program to states and communities," he said.

These concepts include:

  • Profiling needs and resources
  • Mobilizing capacity
  • Developing comprehensive strategic plans
  • Implementing evidence-based programs.

This online assessment guide will help local leaders assess what they are already doing to meet the needs of their young people and what they can do to help. For example, the assessment guide includes maps of communities so that law enforcement can plug in high-crime areas. Communities can use the map to determine services available, so they can direct these services to underserved parts of their cities.

Research shows children are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, including illegal drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, when connected with parents, family, school, community, and places of worship. Risky behaviors are among the top causes of disease and early death among youth.

More than 20 colleges and universities across the Nation simulcast the conference so that members of their local communities could participate.

For more information and to view a rebroadcast of the conference, visit www.helpingyouthconference.org. For more information on the Community Guide to Helping America's Youth, visit www.helpingamericasyouth.gov.

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