An Ohio group is rolling out a new program to fight youth drug and alcohol addiction.
Universal Health Care Action Network Ohio is taking part in a national program led by the nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization Community Catalyst to promote early screening and intervention efforts for at-risk youths.
The program uses a system called Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment, which also aims to improve insurance coverage for prevention programs and create legislation to aid in the intervention process.
In the next year, the organization wants to educate the public about the treatment program and work with legislators to enact policy changes to bolster its use. The group also hopes to talk to communities, education administrators and nurses about using the method in schools.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” said project director Kathleen Gmeiner.
UHCAN Ohio will receive $300,000 over three years from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation as well as other sources.
The program will focus on people 15 to 22 years old.
According to the 2013 Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey, about 30 percent of Ohio high-school students reported having had alcohol in the past 30 days. Almost 21 percent reported using marijuana during the same period.
The percentage of students who had used cocaine in their lifetime fell to nearly 4 percent. The numbers for heroin, hallucinogens and prescription painkillers also were down.
“We need to get to these young people before addiction takes hold, ruins their lives, ruins their futures, ruins Ohio’s future,” said Sarah Biehl, policy director for Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, one of several groups working with UHCAN Ohio.
Others include Voices for Ohio’s Children and Ohio Citizen Advocates for Addiction Recovery.
Early screening is vital in stopping what could become long-term addiction problems, said Paul Coleman, president and CEO of Maryhaven, the largest provider of behavioral health care for adolescents in central Ohio.
“It’s absolutely critical,” he said. “I think it’s like any other disease — the sooner you can intervene in it, the more likely you’ll have a successful outcome.”
Prevention programs are “highly successful,” Coleman said, but are dependent on the patient.
“The variable is, first of all, how early you can get it done, and secondly, just like any other form of health care, patient compliance is key,” he said.
Ohio is one of five states chosen for this screening and intervention initiative.
“We know it’s not being done in too many places across the country,” Gmeiner said, “but where it is being done, they’re seeing good results.”
By Kathleen Martini - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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