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Substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion

The Health Care Authority (HCA) funds substance use prevention programs statewide. We also provide oversight and support to local partners working to prevent substance use and to promote health and wellness in communities across the state.

Want to know more about substance use prevention and our community partners?

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Prevention priorities

Keeping children and teens healthy and safe while reducing the costs of substance abuse to communities are our highest priorities. Our prevention and intervention goals are to delay and prevent the misuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, reduce the negative consequences of substance use, and prevent and reduce alcohol and other drug dependency.

The services we fund are data-driven and prioritized based on our state's strategic plan. Our prevention programs are delivered in collaboration with community prevention coalitions, counties, tribes, statewide organizations, and state and federal agencies.

Statewide prevention programs

Our prevention work supports a number of statewide programs and initiatives to help prevent substance use and promote health and wellness in communities across Washington State.

We support prevention coalitions across the state to provide school and community-based prevention services through our publicly-funded Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative (CPWI). The initiative supports proven strategies and sustainable funding that will have long-term, positive impacts on families and communities. 

CPWI programs are implemented through active partnerships with county governments, educational service districts, local school districts, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Services are available in 64 communities with locations in all 39 counties.

The Washington State Healthy Youth Survey is administered in schools statewide every two years. The survey collects data from students about their alcohol and substance use, along with other behaviors that can impact their health, safety and success. This data is used to inform prevention strategies, promote health and wellness and prioritize prevention resources. The 2016 survey data shows that prevention programs are helping youth make healthy choices and encouraging parents to support these choices:

  • From 2010 to 2016, fewer young people in Washington reported drinking alcohol.
  • The data also shows that kids are less likely to drink if their parents or their communities disapprove of youth drinking.
  • More students are also reporting that their parents talk with them about the risks of using alcohol and other drugs.
  • While 37 percent of 12th graders in 2016 survey data report having depressive feelings for at least two weeks in the past year, more students are also reporting that they have an adult to turn to during those times.

While these indicators are encouraging, there is still so much work to be done to continue to support young people as they cope with the challenges and pressures of their lives. Explore the data and even customize your own fact sheets on the Healthy Youth Survey website.

The Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery contracts with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to administer the Washington State Prevention/Early Intervention Program. The program places student assistance specialists in local schools to serve students at risk of using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs and students currently struggling with substance use.

General prevention activities typically target classrooms or the entire school. These can include activities like supervising peer leadership clubs, providing information to students, staff, and families along with coordinating programs with community coalitions. An array of counseling, peer support groups, social skills training, and individual and family interventions are employed to address the needs of each student. When the severity of use requires services that cannot be provided in the school setting, students struggling with substance use are referred to community-based treatment centers.

Program funds are distributed to the nine Educational Service Districts (ESDs) that serve the state. Funding amounts are based on the Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative (CPWI) guidelines, student enrollment and data estimating the need for services in each region.

For more information about the student assistance program contact Kasey.Kates@hca.wa.gov

Current projects

HCA has several current projects supporting communities across the state in their efforts to prevent substance use.

The College Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention (CCSAP) promotes substance abuse prevention programming and awareness activities on college campuses across Washington State.

CCSAP sponsors a statewide college wellness conference each year for students, staff, and faculty. CCSAP also supports educational webinars that bring the latest research about substance abuse, mental health and student life, and supports multiple colleges and universities in providing students with online self-assessments for substance abuse.

The Coalition meets bimonthly and provides mini-grants and technical support to colleges and universities. 

For more information about CCSAP in Washington, email William.Reamer@hca.wa.gov

Originally funded by Congress in 1997 with the understanding that local problems need local solutions, the Drug Free Communities Support Program is a cornerstone of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) national drug control strategy.

This competitive grant funding provides support for community coalitions that focus on comprehensive strategies and environmental change to prevent and reduce youth substance use. Applicants who meet the criteria to apply may request up to $125,000 in funding for each year of a five-year cycle, with the option to re-apply competitively for another five-year cycle. The ONDCP is responsible for the program and partners with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA’s) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention to administer and manage the program. Washington State currently has 25 Drug Free Communities grantees.

For more information the Drug Free Communities Support Program in Washington State, contact Ray.Horodowicz@hca.wa.gov

HCA uses a research-based planning framework and model to reduce risk factors and increase protective factors to help teens stay healthy and succeed in school.  

To ensure publicly-funded services are effective, HCA collaborates with the Oregon Health Authority to maintain a list of evidence-based programs and strategies. HCA and the Oregon Health Authority have established an annual submission and review process for additional programs to be included. 

For evidence-based prevention programs, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy Report, Benefits and costs of prevention and early intervention programs for youth, shows that prevention programs will save Washington State tax payers over $40 million from reductions in juvenile crime, substance abuse, mental health disorders, teen pregnancies, school failure, violence and injuries.

For more information about how Washington uses evidence-based programs and practices, contact Angie.Funaiole@hca.wa.gov

Initiative 502 (I-502) established a system, overseen by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, to license, regulate, and tax the production, processing and wholesale retail sales of marijuana. It creates a dedicated marijuana fund, consisting of excise taxes, license fees, penalties, and forfeitures, and specifies the disbursement of this money for a variety of health, education, and research purposes, with the remainder distributed to the state general fund. The state Department of Health is the lead agency for implementing marijuana education campaigns. 

HCA is responsible for developing a plan to implement Section 28 of I-502. This includes administering the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, working with the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to evaluate prevention and intervention program impacts, and maintaining evidence-based programs to prevent substance use and substance dependence.

For more information contact Shanne.Montague@hca.wa.gov

Through the tribal prevention and wellness program, tribes have delivered 184 substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion programs in state fiscal year 2018. These strategies increase protective factors and reduce risk factors within tribal communities, including promoting peer and community bonding, increasing healthy beliefs and clear standards, addressing family management problems, and decreasing academic failure. Community-wide programs are in place to address laws favorable to drug use, low neighborhood attachment, and community disorganization. 

For more information contact Sarah.Mariani@hca.wa.gov

The Washington Healthy Youth Coalition provides state-level leadership to reduce underage drinking and marijuana use by leveraging resources and strengthening communities in Washington. Membership draws from over two dozen state agencies and statewide organizations. 

Some of the coalition's work includes:

  • Creating, maintaining and promoting the www.StartTalkingNow.org website to help parents, caregivers, educators, and other adult influencers start the conversation with young people in their lives about underage drinking and marijuana use. 
  • Planning and implementing statewide education campaigns, and providing educational materials to community-based organizations and schools. 
  • Supporting policy changes at the state and community level to reduce youth access and exposure to alcohol and marijuana.

Our collective efforts are making a difference. Since 1998, underage drinking and binge drinking have been reduced by half. The 2016 Healthy Youth Survey showed that more youth are talking with their parents about alcohol and other drugs. Students report an increased commitment to school, local ordinances have been passed to reduce youth access and exposure to alcohol and marijuana, and there is more collaboration among schools, law enforcement, government agencies, health professionals, and community groups that serve youth.

To learn more about the Washington Healthy Youth Coalition, contact Martha.Williams@hca.wa.gov

Get involved

Each year HCA or we hosts two conferences for community partners working towards substance use prevention and promoting health and wellness in their communities.

In collaboration with other state agencies and prevention organizations, the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery hosts an annual Prevention Summit each fall in central Washington. The goal is to provide an enriching and culturally competent training and networking opportunity for youth, volunteers and professionals. The summit brings together those working to promote mental health and to prevent substance abuse, violence and other destructive behaviors in their communities and integration these efforts with primary health care.

The summit provides high quality workshops, forums, and hands-on learning opportunities meet a variety of needs, including professional development for prevention professionals. The program also offers a youth track to get youth volunteers involved in prevention initiatives.

To learn more, contact Angie.Funaiole@hca.wa.gov

The Spring Youth Forum recognizes the work of youth teams that have implemented a successful prevention project within their communities. The forum provides an opportunity to showcase projects that were created by youth leaders during and following previous prevention summits or other youth trainings. This unique event gives students from across the state an opportunity to learn from one another: to share success stories between young people and encourage sustainability of their community programs.

Prevention Summit and the Spring Youth Forum work together to encourage, reward and support youth-led prevention in local Washington communities and maintain momentum throughout the year.

To get involved, contact Antonio.Edwards@hca.wa.gov