Targeted Prevention Program Hopes To Curb Substance Misuse In Athens County Students< < Back to
ATHENS, Ohio — Members of the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office and school personnel are training to prevent the onset of substance use disorders by identifying and addressing at-risk personality traits closely associated with them.
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn wanted a school-based prevention program to get ahead of the region’s addiction epidemic and came across Preventure.
“Schools are already asked to do so much,” he said. “We were trying to find a program with a limited, targeted purpose that took the least amount of planning out of their day. And Preventure is the gold standard.”
Preventure is an evidence-based program developed by Dr. Patricia Conrod, a professor at the University of Montreal, that has worked over the past two decades to identify how various personality types can influence substance use disorders and other behavioral health issues.
Students –typically in the seventh and eighth grades– will answer 23 simple questions about their outlook on life and behaviors as part of a Substance Use Risk Profile Survey.
Based on their responses, facilitators will identify roughly half of those who fall into one of four at-risk personality traits:
Those indentified students who voluntarily participate in the program will attend either individual or group sessions to learn to understand their personalities and build coping skills. Certified facilitators will lead the session based on a specific manual for each personality type.
Hanie Edalati, a research fellow at the University of Montreal, presented an overview of the program Tuesday night at an event organized by the Prosecutor’s office in the Athens Community Center.
She informed the group that children are less likely to let their at-risk personality traits develop into more severe behaviors if they understand them.
“They can put it in a positive way and actually use it for their long-term or short-term goals that they have. But if they don’t learn how to deal with their personality in a given situation, it can become problematic for them.”
Research conducted on schools using the program around the world found a delay in onset substance misuse, a decrease in binge drinking and a decrease in substance use disorders.
Participants were also less likely to have suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, or participate in activities like shoplifting.
The research also found a decrease in high-risk behaviors in students who did not participate in the program, possibly attributed to less pressure from their peers to participated in those behaviors.
Preventure sets itself apart from previous school-based prevention programs like D.A.R.E. because it focuses on the individual, according to Edalati.
“All of this helps them to develop better decision making skills, better coping skills,” she said. “It’s very focused on these areas rather than substance use or other problems.”
The Prosecutor’s Law Enforcement Drug Trust Fund will pay for the Preventure program indefinitely. These funds come from the seizure of forfeited cash and assets purchased with illegal money.
Blackburn believes Preventure is a worthy use of the funds and falls in line with his office’s goal of doing their part in ending the addiction epidemic.
“We’re about more than just convicting the offender,” he said. “The best way to eliminate crime is to eliminate addiction. Addiction is the number one cause of crime. And so if we accept the fact that we have the problem, learning to deal with it and trying to address it will be much easier.”
Staff members from Alexander City Schools, Athens City Schools, Nelsonville-York City Schools and Trimble Local Schools joined six members of the Prosecutor’s office to become certified Preventure facilitators to participate in the multi-day training session this week in hopes of targeting at-risk seventh and eighth graders in the county this year.