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Substance use disorder prevention and mental health promotion

The Health Care Authority (HCA) funds substance use disorder 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 disorder prevention and our community partners?

Visit the Athena Forum

Prevention priorities

Keeping children and teens healthy and safe while reducing the cost to communities of substance misuse 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. We are also committed to supporting community-based organizations across the state to promote mental wellness and prevent suicide in high need communities.

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 disorder 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 prevention strategies and programs and a sustainable funding model that has long-term, positive impacts on families and communities.

CPWI programs are implemented through active partnerships with county governments, educational service districts (ESDs), local school districts, and other local community stakeholders and partners. Services are available in nearly 100 communities across the state.

For more information, email Kasey Kates.

Community-based organizations (CBOs) are state grant funded organizations that serve high-need communities by providing quality and culturally competent substance use disorder prevention and mental health promotion and suicide prevention programming through evidence-based, research-based, and innovative programs and strategies.

CBOs can range from nonprofits, faith-based organizations, educational service districts, schools, tribal or local governmental entities. They are focused on the delivery of prevention and promotion programs and/or strategies to meet a targeted need. Such programs can include mentoring, parenting education, community awareness raising, training, and youth skill building.

For more information, please email Alicia Hughes.

The Washington State Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) is a statewide, collaborative effort of HCA, the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the Department of Health (DOH), and the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), and is administered in schools statewide every two years.

The HYS collects data from students in grades 6-12 about their substance use and other behaviors that can impact their health, safety, and success. HYS typically receives responses from approximately 1,000 schools and more than 250,000 students across the state. This data is used to inform prevention strategies, promote health and wellness, and prioritize prevention resources.

The most recent Healthy Youth Survey was completed in October 2021 and will be administered in the fall of odd years moving forward.

Additional information including results from past survey administrations are available on the HYS website.

For more information, please email Tyler Watson.

HCA partners and contracts with each of the nine (9) ESDs to administer the Washington State SAPISP as part of CPWI. The program places student assistance professionals in local school(s) within each CPWI community 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, school 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 and/or other behavioral health challenges are referred to community-based treatment centers.

For more information about the student assistance program, email Kasey Kates.

Current projects

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

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 related to substance misuse, mental health and student life, and supports multiple colleges and universities in providing students with online self-assessments for substance use.

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.

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 reapply 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, email Ray Horodowicz.

HCA uses a research-based planning framework and model to reduce risk factors and increase protective factors to help youth 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 due to 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, email the prevention team.

For the last three years, HCA’s Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR), in partnership with Washington State University’s IMPACT Lab, has welcomed 26 passionate, inquisitive, and hardworking undergraduate and graduate students into the DBHR Prevention Fellowship Program.

The Prevention Fellowship is a paid 10-month experience that offers unparalleled access to Washington State's leaders in behavioral health prevention, treatment, and recovery. Fellows play a pivotal role in the DBHR team, helping solve real world problems in prevention science, substance use prevention, and mental health promotion. By the end of the program, Fellows are uniquely positioned to enter the prevention workforce, walking away with newfound leadership and communication skills and a deep understanding of multi-level prevention work.

For more information email Sonja Pipek.

Initiative 502 (I-502) established a system, overseen by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, to license, regulate, and collect tax on the production, processing, and retail sale of marijuana. It created 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. The remainder is 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, email Christine Steele.

Through the tribal prevention and wellness program, tribes delivered over 800 sessions of substance misuse prevention and mental health promotion services to their communities in state fiscal year 2020. The strategies used increase protective factors and reduce risk factors within the 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 email Kasey Kates.

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 the 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. More youth are talking with their parents about alcohol and other drugs. 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, email Martha Williams.

Get involved

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

In collaboration with other state agencies and prevention organizations, HCA hosts an annual Prevention Summit each fall in central Washington. The summit is an enriching training and networking opportunity for youth, volunteers, and professionals engaged in health promotion and the prevention of substance misuse, violence, and other high-risk behaviors, in a setting the promotes cultural humility. High quality workshops, forums, and hands-on learning opportunities are designed to meet a variety of needs, including professional development for prevention professionals.

To learn more, email Kersten Tano.

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 among 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, email Antonio Edwards.