Where do community health professionals go to find effective interventions for preventing and treating mental illness and substance-use disorders? The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, a database containing hundreds of scientifically-proven therapies, is the go-to for mental health and addiction specialists. But new additions to this invaluable resource have been blocked indefinitely by the Trump administration.
According to The Washington Post, agency officials froze the existing website in September of 2017. This means that approximately 90 new programs that have been reviewed and rated for their scientific merits since September are not available to the public. The database will continue to block the addition of new programs until a new entity is selected to run the program. Fears that this entity will politicize the process of accepting new programs — as well as awarding grants for developing these programs — require that we follow this unfolding story with close vigilance.
Much of YLI’s community-based work focuses on substance abuse and the social inequities that surround abuse. YLI youth leaders across our regions have conducted research exposing the painful truth that low-income and minority neighborhoods are targeted by corporations peddling tobacco, liquor and other unhealthy substances. In partnership with local merchants, youth participants in YLI’s San Francisco Community Action Model have been working on legislation to reduce storefront ad space for tobacco products from 33% to 15%. The idea is to tackle the normalization of destructive behaviors, which undermines efforts and funds spent on individual prevention.
In Fresno, YLI youth leaders mounted a sticker shock campaign to remind adults that providing alcohol to youth is against the law. The story was aired on the local TV station, ABC 30 Action News, as well as The Fresno Bee.
In Marin, youth leaders won two major policy victories in 2017 — the result of years of hard work and dedication — that extended the Social Host Ordinance, which holds adults responsible for underage drinking and substance abuse within their homes. YLI’s key contribution was to ensure that a restorative justice approach would be available to young people caught violating the law. This approach is critical to disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline, as young people of color are often targeted by police for drug offenses. It also works to address the unjust financial burden of fees and fines that fall heavily on low-income communities. The story was picked up by the Marin Independent Journal, and was shared on YLI’s blog.
The common thread among these youth-led campaigns is the unwavering focus on root causes of the problem: social inequities that target low-income and minority communities. Our youth have worked hard to shift the focus away from individuals, and to reveal the larger patterns of injustice that create toxic environments and encourage unhealthy behaviors. Access to effective, scientifically proven prevention and treatment programs remain an essential part of addressing the issue of substance abuse.