Substance use disorder prevention and mental health promotion

Substance use disorder and many other behavioral health disorders can be prevented. Through effective prevention services, the Health Care Authority (HCA) works with communities, organizations, and families to prevent early use of alcohol and other drugs and to ensure our youth, families and communities thrive.

How can medical providers help?

Talk to patients about substance use and mental health

Medical providers are often trusted sources of health information. Ask your patients about their substance use, depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation during every visit.

Educate patients about substances, including how much alcohol is considered one drink and the risks of impaired driving.

Screening and early intervention

Many people do not seek intervention or treatment on their own. It is important for medical providers to screen patients for early and risky substance use or mental health disorders, and to implement early intervention practices to prevent escalation of risky behaviors.

Follow up with at-risk patients to see if they received assessment and treatment services.

Talk to parents and caregivers about the youth in their lives

Parents are the number one influence on youth’s decision to use or not use substances. We encourage parents and caregivers to begin conversations about risky behaviors early and follow up on these conversations often.

Prescribe responsibly

Opioid use disorder, especially in youth, often starts with a legitimate opioid prescription from a medical provider.

When it is necessary to prescribe opioids, talk to your patients about safe storage of medication and safe disposal practices for when your patients are finished with them. In some cases, over-the-counter options might be more effective and have fewer risks and side effects. Where it is possible, promote alternative methods for pain management to reduce the risk of opioid use disorder.

Provide brochures and handouts in waiting areas

HCA has many educational resources available to help patients and caregivers understand the risk of substance use and poor mental health:

  • Parents of teens and young adults:
  • Underage drinking prevention for teens:
  • Underage drinking and marijuana use prevention for college students:
  • Opioid abuse and misuse prevention and overdose prevention:

Your voice matters!

Get in touch with a local coalition.

HCA supports 100 local coalitions working to prevention substance use disorder and promote health and wellness in their communities, through strategies selected to meet the needs of their communities. These include direct services, such as education and support programs for parents and caregivers and skill-building classes for youth, and programs that promote effective policies. Health care providers are a valued partner in local coalition work. Find a coalition near you.

Provider training