The US government has paid considerable attention to the development of the most favorable environment for the youth. Educational programs are aimed at helping teenagers find their place in American society. Many programs exist to help this population address the most urgent challenges. Too Smart To Start is a program focusing on the prevention of underage alcohol abuse (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2017).
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The program involves the provision of strategies, as well as resources, to help schools and communities to prevent alcohol abuse among the youth. Davis (2017) notes that initiative groups within communities use this program to address the problem. However, the program can be improved significantly and reach more people. This paper includes a brief discussion of two possible ways to improve the problem and the justification for the use of one of the options.
Statement of the Problem
The level of alcohol abuse among the youth has decreased during the past three decades, but in some cases the changes are insignificant. The most significant improvements are apparent when the use of alcohol within the past 12 months is assessed. For example, almost 80% of 12–graders, over 70% of 10-graders, and almost 55% of 8-graders reported alcohol use and binge drinking during the past 12 months in 1991 (Patrick & Schulenberg, 2014).
The recent studies show that 70% of 12th-grade students, 55% of 10th-grade students, and 30% of 8th-grade students reported binge drinking and alcohol use during the past 12 months in 2011. The trend is promising, but another assessment shows that the level of alcohol abuse is still rather high and has not changed during the past three decades. Approximately 30% of 12th-grade students and 20% of 10th-grade students reported binge drinking or alcohol use within the past 30 days in 1991 (Patrick & Schulenberg, 2014). The figures were almost the same in 2011. It is also important to note that the prevalence of alcohol use is higher in underprivileged communities.
The negative effects of alcohol use on adolescents’ health and academic performance have been explored in detail. Importantly, the levels of alcohol use among adolescents are quite alarming as there is a ban on selling alcohol to people under 21. Researchers stress that teenage alcohol abuse may lead to the persistence of the addiction in adulthood, the development of serious health issues (ulcers, cancer, depression, and so on), poor academic performance (Patrick & Schulenberg, 2014).
As a result, young people can have limited access to higher education and a wide range of employment opportunities, which deteriorates American communities. In simple words, teenagers coming from underprivileged families are at a high risk of alcohol abuse, which results in these populations’ socioeconomic issues. The implementation of effective programs aimed at preventing alcohol abuse among adolescents can break this vicious circle.
Too Smart To Start is one of such programs. It is funded by SAMHSA that is an agency within the USDHHS (United States Department of Health and Human Services). The organization’s budget for the promotion of preventing efforts is $150 million in 2018 (Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). The mission of SAMHSA is to “reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities” (SAMHSA, 2017). As has been mentioned above the program in question assists in communities’ struggle against the problem. Organizations, initiative groups, schools, and even individuals can address the program and benefit from the use of resources or assistance in the development of effective strategies to solve issues.
Nevertheless, a third of adolescents still use alcohol so more effective solutions should be developed. One of the possible solutions can be the development of a personality-targeted intervention. Conrod et al. (2013) evaluated the effectiveness of a personality-targeted selective program aimed at the prevention of alcohol abuse among adolescents. The researchers claim that such an approach is effective and can be applied in school-based contexts. One of the key factors contributing to the success of the program was the provision of training to the faculty.
To implement this program, it is important to undertake several steps. First, it is important to develop personality-targeted interventions for different personality types. This step will require thorough research and possible collaboration with researchers, mental health professionals, or educators. The next step will be the development of effective training programs for the faculty. It is possible to extend the boundaries of the school-based setting and come up with strategies that can be used by parents or other relatives. Finally, it is important to inform communities about the existence of the new program. The information can be provided through newsletters.
The budgetary requirements for this solution will be comparatively small. The vast majority of the funds will be used to develop the strategies. These resources will be allocated to access databases to search for scholarly resources on the matter, pay to researchers and professionals involved in the process of the development of the programs, etc. It is also necessary to allocate funds to provide the stakeholders with the necessary materials (manuals and other resources). The budget for this program can be up to $100 thousand (with $70,000 for the development of the interventions and $30,000 for the materials and resources).
Another solution can be based on the one mentioned above, but it will require more time and funds. The use of personality-targeted interventions in school-based and family-based settings can be implemented more effectively. The first steps involving the development of the programs will be unchanged. The basis for the new interventions will be the research implemented by Conrod et al. (2013). At that, it is possible to extend the limits of the interventions.
It is necessary to create effective programs that could address the needs of different groups. Apart from focusing on personality types, it is necessary to pay attention to age, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status, and academic performance.
The steps associated with communication should also be further developed. Apart from the newsletters, it is essential to develop a far-reaching promotion campaign. Social media can become the primary channel to make communities aware of the new opportunities. To encourage educational establishments and various initiative groups to participate in this program, it is possible to establish a prize. The award can be one of the grants provided by SAMHSA (SAMHSA, 2017).
It can also be effective to send some information directly to the most struggling communities. In many cases, these communities have many issues to address and can simply miss this opportunity. This solution will require a larger investment, but is far-reaching and can improve the situation significantly. The budget requirements will be discussed in detail below (see Table 1).
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The Preferred Solution
The second option is the preferred solution as it will reach more people and will be able to address the organization’s mission, which is reducing the effects of substance abuse on American communities. Personality-targeted interventions have proved to be effective and beneficial for the target audience and overall communities (Conrod et al., 2013). Adolescents learn about harms of the alcohol use, about ways to fit in different groups, come to terms with themselves, and feel empowered.
The new program will potentially reduce the number of adolescents who use and abuse alcohol. Specific attention will be paid to underprivileged groups, which will allow them to improve their socioeconomic status in the future. The program can be funded from several resources. SAMHSA can provide the major part of the funds. As for the provision of training to the participants of the program (educators, parents, social workers, etc.), SAMHSA can address state governments as well as local charities or communities to fund the necessary activities.
Although quite substantial investment may be needed, the benefits of the program cannot be overestimated. The necessary funds may reach up to $150,000 depending on the number of participants (see Table 1). 2018 budget of SAMHSA has the necessary funds, but the organization can address other agencies and organizations to help in the implementation of the interventions. One of SAMHSA grants (or several grants if necessary) will be provided to the winners.
Table 1. Budgetary Requirements.
|Media and Promotion (including materials)||5,000|
|Training of the educators or initiative groups||Over 15,000|
On balance, it is necessary to note that the program that will reduce the level of alcohol use among adolescents will be based on the personality-targeted intervention. The program will address the needs of teenagers who will receive a chance to integrate into society more effectively. The program can become a basis or a starting point for the development of interventions aimed at preventing drug abuse among teenagers. American communities can benefit from such programs if they are implemented properly.
Conrod, P., O’Leary-Barrett, M., Newton, N., Topper, L., Castellanos-Ryan, N., Mackie, C., & Girard, A. (2013). Effectiveness of a selective, personality-targeted prevention program for adolescent alcohol use and misuse. JAMA Psychiatry, 70(3), 334-342.
Davis, N. (2017). It takes a community. The Southside Times. Web.
Department of Health and Human Services. (2017). Putting America’s health first. Web.
Patrick, M. E., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2014). Prevalence and predictors of adolescent alcohol use and binge drinking in the United States. Alcohol Research, 35(2), 193-200.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Too smart to start. Web.