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Let's Eliminate Prevention Silos Among State Agencies

Because two of my favorite parts of our mission are collaboration and innovation, I recently attended the 2017 Partners in Prevention Conference, hosted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

In case you’re not aware, DFPS was completely restructured in 2016, when they became a stand-alone agency apart from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). HHSC is the state agency that oversees the bulk of the prevention work we do here at DPR.

DFPS has a division called Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) and about a year ago it formalized its public health approach to preventing child abuse and neglect with the publication of a five-year strategic plan. In fiscal year 2017 PEI re-procured half of its programs, taking a fresh assessment of where the highest risk communities are and increasing the number of evidence-based programs funded. By September 2018, 100 percent of PEI’s home visiting and provider contracts will require use of one or more evidence-based models or promising practices. This is great news for Texas and the results of this effort will mean enhanced stewardship of public resources.

I’m very perplexed by the disconnect between PEI and Behavioral Health Services (BHS), the section of HHSC that funds DPR’s prevention programs. We are all striving to prevent something, whether it’s child abuse or drug use/misuse. I decided to attend the conference to learn more about PEI and explore opportunities for collaboration.

The theme of the Partners in Prevention conference was Mission Possible: Stronger Families and Communities. What a great goal for Texas! I felt right at home since that’s the ultimate goal of our youth prevention and community coalition programs. It fits right into our new Vision of a Drug-Free Generation.

I’d like to offer up the idea that we need to expand the breadth of how we traditionally think about prevention in our field—too often we silo ourselves in prevention work. Instead, let’s look for areas where we can raise our hands more and extend our expertise to other agencies. Sadly, alcohol and other drugs are often the root cause of child abuse and the myriad of other problems that DFPS addresses. Prevention includes so much so let’s be more inclusive and non-territorial!

We’re a little more than a week into a powerhouse prevention month, so let’s consider how we can raise awareness around the following opportunities:

October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, hosted by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).

Mental Illness Awareness Week was last week (hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness). The World Health Organization's World Mental Health Day is Tuesday, the 10th.

National Drug-Free Workplace Week is next week (Oct. 16-21), hosted by the National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance, a division of the Drug Free America Foundation. And of course, Red Ribbon Week, honoring the memory of DEA Agent Kiki Camerena, is the last week of the month (Oct. 23-31).

Finally, the 14th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, October 28 (click here for a list of our IMPACT Coalitions collection sites).

I hope that we can begin to think of these prevention events as a part of creating healthy and resilient youth, families and communities as a part of what Dr. Anthony Biglan calls “human wellbeing.” Dr. Biglan, author of The Nurture Effect and keynote speaker at the Partners in Prevention conference writes, “We have the tools to help our families and schools to be more nurturing. Rather than addressing each psychological, behavioral, or health problem as though it is unrelated to every other problem, we need to get all of the organizations working on human wellbeing to band together to help make all of our families and schools more nurturing.” Now that’s innovation!