When news of methamphetamine abuse in one New England state seized the headlines a few years ago, officials there advocated for programs to combat this scourge.
But the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) suggested a different approach. The federal group shared with state officials statistics that demonstrated a much more widespread, damaging, and costly substance abuse problem.
“A much larger issue for the state was alcohol-related traffic injuries and deaths,” says EDC’s Tania Garcia. “So prevention of alcohol abuse is now its top priority.”
In September, CSAP took steps to ensure that federal funding for substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion is dedicated to the most pressing issues in each state, which aren’t always the ones in the headlines. It awarded a new five-year contract to EDC to operate the Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT).
Under this new national program, EDC will oversee five previously autonomous Regional Expert Teams, which provide training and technical assistance to CSAP grantees—states, local communities, tribes, and jurisdictions. CAPT will enable the teams to unite under one umbrella to share a wide range of resources, training materials, and Web-based courses.
“A major emphasis of this new approach is to ensure that states and communities use epidemiological data to inform their decisions about strategies and interventions to address particular problems in an area,” says EDC’s Cheryl Vince Whitman, director of the Health and Human Development Division, which manages the contract. “This is a much more targeted and effective way to prevent and reduce the toll of substance abuse across the United States.”
A national strategy
The creation of CAPT—which positions states and their communities to receive much-needed support to address substance abuse and mental health problems, ranging from underage drinking to heroin use—couldn’t be timelier, says Vince Whitman.
“As national and local leaders debate the issues in health reform, there must be an even greater emphasis on prevention,” she says. “This new CAPT system is poised to educate the nation about the value of prevention and to offer evidence-based practices at state and local levels to address a range of interconnected behavioral health issues.”
Each CAPT Regional Expert Team will continue to contribute to CSAP’s efforts to prevent and reduce substance abuse and to address associated public health issues, in particular reaching out to groups often overlooked, such as returning veterans, young adults ages 18 to 24, older adults, and those at risk of suicide. A high percentage of those at risk are also abusing substances.
This new national program builds on more than a decade of EDC’s work managing the Northeast Regional CAPT. EDC will continue to manage the Northeast Regional Expert Team, as it is now known, as well as the Southeast Regional Expert Team, which EDC began to oversee this past fall. EDC will also be responsible for making sure the teams are working together to identify the most urgent challenges in substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion in each corner of the country.
“We are very proud to have this remarkable opportunity to serve the nation and extend the substance abuse prevention services we have offered as the Northeast CAPT for more than a decade,” says Vince Whitman.
Originally published on January 29, 2010