Collaborative Efforts Needed to Address Youth Violence

SAMHSA initiatives designed to promote healthy children and prevent youth violence promote a collaborative approach.

A stark reality: there were 19 school shootings in American public schools in 2013 (the year after Sandy Hook), including shootings at an elementary school and four middle schools. There were nine shootings in colleges and universities. These incidences are so alien from most people’s memories of the school experience, it is hard to comprehend. The causes and contributing factors are myriad and complex with interactive effects and local contributors that make finding solutions dizzyingly difficult. But we must try.

The National Resource Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention hopes to become an important tool to tackle the problem of increased violence impacting the lives of our young people. The initiative, developed by SAMHSA in conjunction with ten other organizations, is all about working through the problem and finding solutions.

Project LAUNCH

There are resource and program components to the National Resource Center’s approach. One of those program elements is Project LAUNCH, also known as Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health. This is a national initiative that has funded as many as 55 sites, including states, tribes, territories, communities, and the District of Columbia. These grantees work with other agency partners to integrate evidence-based mental health knowledge and practices into critical areas of kids’ lives with the goal of catching and treating problems early, which is consistent with well-established best practices. The five core prevention and promotion strategies that Project LAUNCH partners use are:

  1. Screening and assessment in a variety of child-serving settings
  2. Enhanced home visiting with an increased focus on social and emotional well-being
  3. Mental health consultation in early care and educational programs
  4. Family strengthening and parent skills training
  5. Integration of behavioral health into primary care settings

Safe Schools/Healthy Students

Another effort supported by the National Resource Center is SAMHSA's Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) initiative. This program supports the objective of achieving safer schools and communities along with promoting the well-being of all children, youth, and families.

Learn more about SS/HS.

National Registry of Evidenced-based Programs and Practices (NREPP)

Sandra Williamson, Director of the National Resource Center at the American Institutes of Research, said SAMHSA's NREPP is also a helpful resource for youth advocates. She explained, “A resource specialist provides support to grantees. The specialist participates in monthly conference calls and works in concert with federal project officers who have strong backgrounds in the field. The resource specialist has content expertise and can focus on steps that will make students and teachers feel safer. We need a comprehensive strategy to make students aware when they are being pulled into healthy situations."

"This whole approach relies heavily on science and on research-based proven strategies. When federal dollars are provided, partners need to go to SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidenced-based Programs and Practices for proven interventions.”

NREPP also contains extensive resource and learning portal components for professional educators and others who deal with kids to upgrade their knowledge base and skill set. Sandra Williamson summed it up by saying, “Our hope for the National Resource Center is that it will provide direct support to grantees’ efforts to prevent youth violence. We want to become a major resource for the field so that they access this first when there is a question or a problem. The end result will be that schools have improved capacity to prevent violence in the community, and further access to local mental health supports.”

This article was originally published to highlight the May 2014 theme of Children and Families.

Learn how SAMHSA addresses the impact of trauma and violence on individuals, families, and communities as a behavioral health concern.

Access more behavioral health and homelessness resources.

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Brian Prioleau
Last Updated: 04/19/2016