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Prevention of Substance Use and Mental Disorders

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Prevention and early intervention strategies can reduce the impact of substance use and mental disorders in America’s communities.

Prevention activities work to educate and support individuals and communities to prevent the use and misuse of drugs and the development of substance use disorders. Substance use and mental disorders can make daily activities difficult and impair a person’s ability to work, interact with family, and fulfill other major life functions. Mental and substance use disorders are among the top conditions that cause disability in the United States. Preventing mental and/or substance use disorders or co-occurring disorders and related problems is critical to behavioral and physical health.

Overview

SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) leads federal efforts to promote the prevention and treatment of mental disorders. SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) aims to develop comprehensive systems through providing national leadership in the development of policies, programs, and services to prevent the onset of substance misuse.

SAMHSA’S Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center works to provide communities, clinicians, policymakers, and others in the field with the information they need to incorporate evidence-based practices in their communities for prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that approximately 20.3 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder in the past year. Also, in 2018, an estimated 47.6 million adults in the U.S. had any mental illness in the past year, which represents 19.1 percent of the adult population. Evidence-based prevention can work to prevent substance misuse and the development of substance use and mental disorders.

SAMHSA’s prevention and early intervention efforts promote evidence-based decision-making. Some of SAMHSA’s prevention campaigns and initiatives include:

Substance Use Disorder Prevention

  • Talk. They Hear You. Campaign—Aims to reduce underage drinking and substance use among youths under the age of 21 by providing parents and caregivers with resources to discuss substance use with their children.
  • Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking (ICCPUD)—Coordinates federal efforts to reduce underage drinking and served as a resource for the development of A Comprehensive Plan for Preventing and Reducing Underage Drinking. This committee is comprised of 15 federal agencies and is led by SAMHSA.
  • STOP Underage Drinking —This interagency website portal of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking (ICCPUD) provides research, federal and state resources, and funding opportunities to reduce and prevent underage drinking and its consequences.
  • National Prevention Week—Held in May, NPW promotes community involvement, resource sharing, and partnership engagement to increase public awareness of substance use and mental disorders. In addition, NPW provides resources to communities so they can highlight their prevention successes throughout the year. Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking—This nationwide initiative provides community-based organizations with the resources they need to start, or support, a conversation about evidence-based underage drinking prevention. Held every two years, Communities Talk events engage multiple stakeholders within each community to mobilize action in underage drinking prevention or strengthen existing prevention programs.

Mental Disorder Prevention

  • National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day—Held in May, Awareness Day works to increase public awareness about the needs of children with serious mental illness and severe emotional disturbance. The day also demonstrates how children’s mental health initiatives promote positive youth development, recovery, and resilience.
  • Federal Commission on School Safety—This federal commission, established in 2018, works to address school safety by recommending policy and best practices for school violence prevention. It includes various federal cabinet members, including current Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use.
  • National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI)—This initiative raises awareness about the impact of trauma on children and adolescents as a behavioral health concern. NCTSI develops and implements evidence-based interventions to reduce the mental health impact of traumatic experiences on children and adolescents.

Workforce/Practitioner Training and Education

Resources and Publications

Related SAMHSA Grant Programs

  • Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant—Provides funding to states, territories, and tribal entities for efforts in prevention and treatment of substance misuse.
  • Community Mental Health Services Block Grant—Supports grantees in carrying out plans for providing comprehensive community mental health services.
  • Synar Amendment—As part of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention oversees the implementation of the Synar Amendment, which requires states to have laws prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco products to minors.
  • Strategic Prevention Framework - Partnerships for Success grants—Provides funding to prevent the onset and reduce the progression of substance abuse and its related problems while strengthening prevention capacity at the community level. This grant is targeted for interventions to prevent underage drinking among persons age 9 to 20.
  • First Responders-Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (FR-CARA) Grants—Provides funding to train and provide resources to first responders on carrying and administering naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug.
  • Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act grants— Aims to prevent and reduce alcohol use among youth and young adults ages 12-20 in communities.
  • Tribal Behavioral Health Grant Program—Aims to prevent and reduce suicidal behavior and substance use, reduce the impact of trauma, and promote mental health among American Indian/Alaska Native youth through age of 24.
  • Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) State Education Agency Grants—Aims to build the capacity of state education agencies to increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth; provide training for school personnel to detect and respond to mental health issues; and connect school-aged youth and families to needed services.
  • Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Campus Suicide Prevention Grant—Aims to develop a coordinated approach to enhance behavioral health services for all college students, prevent mental and substance use disorders, promote help-seeking behaviors, and improve the identification and treatment of college students at-risk for suicide.
  • Garrett Lee Smith State/Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention Grant Program—Supports states and tribes with implementing youth suicide prevention and early intervention strategies in schools, youth-serving organizations, and health care settings.
  • National Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation—Works to promote the healthy social and emotional development of infants and young children and to prevent the onset of serious emotional disturbance through funding of public and private nonprofit entities.
  • Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health Grant Program (Project LAUNCH)—Aims to promote the wellness of young children, from birth to age 8, by addressing the social, emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioral aspects of their development and prevent the development of serious emotional disturbances.

Learn more about SAMHSA grants and how to apply.

Related Organizations

Last Updated

Last Updated: 04/27/2022