Prevention Programs

The Importance of Prevention & Wellness Promotion

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) promotes and implements prevention and early intervention strategies to reduce the impact of mental and substance use disorders. Mental and substance use disorders can have a powerful effect on the health of individuals, their families, and their communities.

Preventing mental and/or substance use disorders in children, adolescents, and young adults is critical to their behavioral and physical health. Behaviors and symptoms that signal the development of a behavioral disorder often manifest two to four years before a disorder is present. In addition, people with a mental health issue are more likely to use alcohol or drugs than those not affected by a mental illness. If communities and families can intervene early, behavioral health disorders might be prevented, or symptoms can be mitigated. (Source: SAMSHA)

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council’s Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People report – 2009 notes that cost-benefit ratios for early treatment and prevention programs for addictions and mental illness programs range from 1:2 to 1:10. This means a $1 investment yields $2 to $10 savings in health costs, criminal and juvenile justice costs, educational costs, and lost productivity.

Prevention targets risk and protective factors as the “influences” of behavioral health problems. The above mentioned IOM report defines risk and protective factors as follows:

  • Risk factor: a characteristic at the biological, psychological, family, community, or cultural level that precedes and is associated with a higher likelihood of problem outcomes
  • Protective factor: a characteristic associated with a lower likelihood of problem outcomes or that reduces the negative impact of a risk factor on problem outcomes

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