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Substance Use Prevention Resources for Schools

Prevention programs and strategies can reduce the likelihood of a student's future substance use and improve mental health and educational outcomes. Prevention programs accomplish this by reducing underlying causes or risk factors and increasing buffers or protective factors.

School-based prevention

  • Pennsylvania Student Assistance Program (SAP) is designed to assist in identifying issues including alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, and mental health issues which pose a barrier to a student’s success. All public schools are required to have a Student Assistance Program for grades K-12. Student Assistance Programs can also be integrated together with other Multi-Tiered Systems of Support like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.

  • All public schools are required to provide instruction to students in grades K-12 related to the prevention of substance use. This instruction can be provided through the many evidence-based/informed prevention programs available such as Botvin Life Skills Training, Too Good for Drugs, Positive Action, or Project Towards No Drug Abuse. Visit the Results First Clearinghouse to find other programs.

  • Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an important way that schools can help prevent substance use.  Examples of SEL programs include: Second Step, Incredible Years, and Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies.  Visit the CASEL website to find other programs.  SEL can also be developed through implementing the PA Career Ready Skills.

  • Low commitment to schooling is a risk factor for substance misuse. Promoting commitment and bonding to school is an important prevention strategy. The Social Development Strategy is a tool any school staff can use to help promote bonding to school.

Selecting and implementing prevention resources

  • County drug and alcohol offices, called Single County Authorities, can help schools identify their needs, select prevention programs, and implement prevention programs. Schools are strongly encouraged to reach out to their local county drug and alcohol office for guidance or assistance with identifying prevention programs to implement.

  • School district data from the PA Youth Survey (PAYS) is an important resource for identifying student needs and the factors influencing student substance use. This information can be used to help guide the selection of prevention programs. The PAYS How-to Guide is a tool to help in analyzing PAYS data. Local county drug and alcohol offices and coalitions may also be able to assist in analyzing PAYS data.

  • Pennsylvania Department of Education created a resource guide for Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) programs, curricula, and supplementary programs. Best practices on choosing AOD programs involve the usage of evidence-based, effective, and promising programs that are developmentally appropriate.

  • School-Based Primary Prevention: A Key to Combating the Opioid Epidemic: While viewing this video training series, you will receive a comprehensive overview of the opioid epidemic and the role primary prevention plays in combatting the epidemic. The training also provides information on essential elements of effective prevention programs and how to incorporate prevention programming into the school environment.