As a statewide prevention organization, we’re heavily invested in the prevention needs of communities throughout Ohio. From time to time, we bring those needs and even advocates from those communities to the Ohio Statehouse and to Ohio’s elected leaders. While each community is different and has unique prevention needs, we’ve found that some issues crop up again and again, and we’ve found that some issues are truly felt in every corner of the state. On this page, we’ve listed those prevention priorities and included ways that state leaders can play their role in prevention by addressing these priorities.
If you’d like to lend your voice to improving the lives of others, here are our priorities for prevention advocacy. You can find resources for prevention on elsewhere on our website, and you can join our advocacy newsletter for up to date, ongoing information, resources, and opportunities.
Our priorities for prevention are:
- Getting a seat at the table
- Reducing youth access to substances
- Creating and supporting healthy communities
- Supporting health equity
- Increased and sustained prevention funding
- Increase in mental health education across the lifespan
Getting a Seat at the Table
When lawmakers consider creating regulations or laws impacting healthcare, they consult doctors to collect information, refine the proposal, and generate buy-in to provide the best healthcare for patients across Ohio. The same standard of consulting experts should apply to prevention. Yet, when laws are often made without consulting practicing, licensed prevention professionals and create barriers rather than inroads to success. Prevention services then wind up often funded or delivered without licensed prevention providers. This is a dangerous liability. Prevention, done effectively, can improve health outcomes for families and communities, but when it’s done poorly, it can make matters worse and cause more harm than good.
Lawmakers and regulators should ensure that prevention professionals and other key stakeholders are consulted when discussing bills or rules affecting the delivery of prevention services.
Reducing Youth Access to Substances
During adolescence, the brain is in a critical stage of growth, and using drugs before it’s finished developing can disrupt that growth. Even though drug use can be so harmful to teenagers, they’re also in a state of transition when drug use might be more likely to occur. Teenagers are sometimes faced with peer pressure, an increase in the availability of drugs, and the stressors involved in school and social life. At the same time, the parts of their brains that control decision-making haven’t fully developed, so they may not be able to assess the risks of drug use.
Reducing the ability of youth to secure alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs is an effective prevention strategy. By creating programs that reduce this access, we can prevent or delay the onset of drug use. In turn, this will promote health and wellness among young people.
Creating and Supporting Healthy Communities
Effective prevention cannot be done in a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach. It has to be done with respect to each individual community’s needs, readiness, and cultural norms. To that end, a bottom-up, community-by-community approach to prevention is best tailored to meeting each community’s specific needs. State policymakers can do their part by making funds and programs available to create new community programs, organizations, and initiatives and to expand existing ones.
To ensure effective prevention, policies and programs should build local capacity to solve local problems. By working with communities and fostering dialogue, state leaders can support prevention in all of Ohio’s communities.
Supporting Health Equity
Everyone has a role in prevention, and all communities deserve to have access to prevention services. The reality, however, is that communities with wealth are more likely to have prevention services for their families, and those communities with the least assets are most likely to not have those resources and investments in the health of their families. This creates a negative cycle and drives inequitable health outcomes that dramatically impact the communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
Policies and practices in prevention must address disparities in behavioral health. Lawmakers, communities, families, preventionists, and others have to pitch in to address the vast inequities that exist.
Increased and Sustained Prevention Funding
Funding for prevention is typically ad hoc, yet the need for prevention services is continual and sustained. Spending should be tied to building capacity for prevention by creating a pipeline of credentialed preventionists, supporting those preventionists with resources and strategies, and making funds available for programs that create systemic change. Instead, funds are often tied to single substances or single programs and then reapportioned to other programs in a year or two.
Instead of allocating budgets for prevention in reactionary ways, state lawmakers should make funds available for proactive prevention and work with credentialed preventionists to ensure resources are aligned to meet the needs of all Ohioans. At the same time, the investments made in prevention are investments in the health of Ohioans, and those investments need to be increased.
Increase in Mental Health Education Across the Lifespan
Attention to mental health education comes and goes based on recent headlines in the news, but the mental health needs of young people are constant. To date, Ohio is the only state in the U.S. without health education standards. While some schools use evidence-based curricula and mental health education professionals to teach their students, many schools approach mental health education poorly or not at all, resulting in wide disparities in the health of Ohio’s youngest citizens. These disparities and the lack of mental health education in many communities are unacceptable.
State regulators and lawmakers must consider the needs of the whole child in education and provide resources for schools to teach mental health education. At the same time, schools should rely on evidence-based programs and use certified professionals that are proven to work in teaching young people about their mental health.