In nearly every story about a person’s substance abuse journey – whether tragic or successful – one question emerges in the hearts and minds of loved ones and communities at large: What if we could have kept this from happening in the first place?
In an unprecedented step forward, the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte (HFL) has launched the Partners in Prevention initiative that brings together 12 schools in La Porte County to identify, implement, and sustain evidence-based substance abuse prevention programs for students.
The HFL provided $2.8 million in grant funding over the next four years so the schools can develop curriculum that supports positive peer relationships and social competences to avoid the use of addictive substances. The decision to fund came on the heels of a comprehensive study commissioned by the HFL and completed by the Center for Health Policy from the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health. The study assessed the burden of opioid addiction in La Porte County and identified gaps in providing adequate prevention, treatment, and long-term recovery services. One of the recommendations from the La Porte County Opioid Study was to use evidence-based prevention programs in schools to combat the opioid epidemic.
“We are excited to be collaborating with the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte and other school corporations in the county to guarantee a curriculum for students that is designed to educate about the dangers of drugs,” said Mark Francesconi, Superintendent of La Porte Community School Corporation. “We must do everything we can as a county to address opioid use.”
All schools in La Porte County were invited to apply for Partners in Prevention funding. On Feb. 12 and 13, HFL and the 12 schools who accepted convened to launch phase one – planning. Funding for this phase totals $73,306, and the HFL contracted the Educational Development Center (EDC) as the technical assistance provider and RTI International as the evaluation firm. During the planning grant term (lasting until May), schools will get free, step-by-step help with identifying proven, age-appropriate programs, and assistance with carefully planning programs that can be successfully implemented and sustained.
“This initial meeting was an excellent opportunity for the school staff to meet the program facilitators and gain an overall understanding of the depth and breadth of the support available to them as they plan,” said Maria Fruth, CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte. “This is an enormous investment in dollars, but also in time and expertise on the part of our teachers, counselors, and school staff, so we want to start strong by supporting them with the best resources to develop the best plans for their particular schools.”
Fruth said attendees provided feedback and thanks after the sessions, calling it an incredible opportunity to address the community’s substance abuse challenges head-on.
“They were just so thankful that we have this kind of expertise at the table,” Fruth said. “We expect that the programs that come out of Partners in Prevention will have other benefits other than helping students avoid drugs, alcohol, and other addictive substances. Studies show the programs will help students improve their academic achievement, school attendance, classroom behavior, and social and emotional well-being. These programs also can help reduce bullying and violence.”
The next stage after planning is for participating schools to apply for implementation grants in Spring. With that funding, they will begin implementing their selected evidence-based programs in the Fall and continue over the course of three years with support of the EDC and RTI.
Partners in Prevention is modeled after the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation program called Prevention Matters. For more information about this, and other programs of the HFL, visit them online at https://hflaporte.org/.