Building Youth Substance Use Prevention Programming: Where to Start?

A licensed professional counselor near Detroit, MI was concerned about a gap in prevention education her community offered young people in relation to opioids and other substances. She ran an afterschool program and wanted to add curriculum to better meet the needs of the community and provide a proper environment for youth to learn about substance use disorders. For guidance on where to start, Carlotta Slater, MA, LPC, CADC, reached out to the Opioid Response Network (ORN) for help.

Shelly Greller, MS is the ORN Technology Transfer Specialist for MI and to support Carlotta’s needs she brought in Yvonne Stroman, a trainer and consultant with ORN partner organization CADCA.

Carlotta’s plan was to develop multi-week youth substance use disorder prevention curriculum for her students. To inform the approach and content, Yvonne provided guidance, perspective, and evidence-based practices for working with young people in relation to substance use prevention. Her suggestion at the front was to develop a relationship the students who’d be involved in the program and include them in the process.

According to Yvonne this helps avoid scenarios where students feel like they’re being preached to and, as a result, disengage with the learning opportunity. Best outcomes, Yvonne says, come from “engaging with young people honestly, amplifying their voices, affirming their unique identity and empowering them to make their own decisions.”

Carlotta has since begun to pilot a six-week youth-oriented prevention program with guidance from ORN and input from the community who’ve suggested fresh approaches like facilitating a Prezi with youth leadership on self-care, group TikToks and letter writing to family members following sessions. Carlotta also now plans to offer counseling for guardians to help them establish healthy conversation with their children on issues involving substance use.

ORN enhances the efforts of others tackling issues related to substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery. If you or someone you know could use help, let us know your needs using the “Submit a Request” form.