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Promising Practices

Promising Practices

Learn more about the promising practices and resulting outcomes from the pilot program and the partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA).

The pilot project created increased awareness of substance abuse as barrier to employment

Implementation of the Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) model in the 15 YouthBuild pilot sites helped to increase program and staff awareness about the impact that substance abuse can have on gaining and retaining employment. By working together to support the pilot project, SAMHSA and ETA were able to shine a light on the issue of substance abuse, and on the opportunities available to support youth through a continuum of services. In addition to increased awareness on the program and staff level, there also appeared to be a shift in awareness of youth participating in the program as they recognized more clearly the impact that substance abuse can have on their goals and future employment. Through increased awareness of program staff and youth, there was also increased tolerance. Consequently, youth felt more supported, more comfortable talking with case managers, and more open to treatment.

In addition to the 15 pilot sites, as a result of the pilot project other YouthBuild programs have recognized the barrier that substance abuse can create and have shown interest in participating in programs similar to the pilot project in the future. They have also shown interest in using the resources and knowledge gained from the project. ETA recognizes the value of sharing the experiences of the pilot programs with its wider network of programs and other federal agencies. There are plans to highlight the work further through presenting on the SBIRT model at YouthBuild events and trainings. As a result of the pilot program and partnership with SAMHSA, there was increased recognition of the value of raising awareness of substance abuse in youth-focused programs. This recognition has led to a goal of continuing to shape the SBIRT model; provide resources, tools, and training through continued partnership with SAMHSA; and establish links between programs and local SAMHSA representatives and other local service providers.

A variety of resources, training, and technical assistance helps to support implementation

SAMHSA provided evidence-based curriculum training on the SBIRT model to all pilot sites, ETA staff, and their technical assistance (TA) provider. These trainings focused on the components of the model, and on what it is—and is not—intended to do. In addition, a range of TA and training was provided to pilot sites in order to support implementation of the model in their programs. While the training and TA varied by individual sites, a TA provider worked closely with sites throughout the implementation process. This included implementation calls, group coaching sessions, and onsite visits. Training and TA focused on assessing site operations, discussing how to recruit youth, and using culturally sensitive practices for collecting and using data. In addition YouthBuild’s online community of practice was used to provide resources, tools, white papers, and information for programs.

Learn more about how training and technical assistance helped to develop staff capacity despite staff turnover.

Policy development and revision occurred as a result of increased knowledge of the impact of substance abuse on employment

The increased focus on substance use as a barrier to employment sparked an understanding of the need for policies and procedures that address this barrier by identifying and intervening when necessary. Prior to participating in the pilot project, many of the programs did not have a policy related to youth substance abuse. For others, the previous policy was a zero tolerance policy which resulted in students exiting the program if substance use was identified. Implementation of SBIRT model in the pilot sites allowed programs to understand how early identification and intervention could help support youth and allow them to pursue their employment and career goals. As a result of participation, programs developed more relaxed and flexible policies and procedures focused on testing, counseling, and focus groups, that allowed programs to support youth’s varying needs.

SAMHSA helped to develop links with community networks to further support youth struggling with substance abuse

While programs found that many of their youth were in the “low-risk” behavior category as a result of the screener, there was a small percentage of youth who had substance abuse issues that required more intensive interventions and treatment outside of the scope of the program. SAMHSA not only helped provide training and resources around the SBIRT model, but was instrumental in helping pilot sites establish links and referral networks within their communities to assist youth who needed a higher level of support than the programs could provide.