By Helen Varvi, Deputy Director
National Prevention Week (NPW) is held each year during May. Originally, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) chose this timing because it is near the start of summer, an important time for school, communities, and prevention professionals to focus on prevention. Adolescents and full-time college students most often use substances for the first time during June or July, according to SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health. And even though this school year has been modified in ways we would have thought unimaginable, the focus during this week-long observance is to celebrate prevention efforts in organizations and communities across the nation, and across all ages. We know communities make prevention happen every day – not just during NPW – and NPW is the perfect time to promote and celebrate a year's worth of prevention efforts, as well as get news, ideas, and resources to strengthen daily, weekly, and monthly prevention activities.
Although the coronavirus pandemic will likely decrease the opportunity for schools and organizations to host the number and scope of prevention-themed events and activities they usually do at the end of the school year, these prevention efforts are still important. Social transition events, like the end of a school year, transition from middle to high school and from high school to college, can present a risk factor for youth substance abuse. NPW gives us a timely opportunity to raise awareness of youth substance misuse and behavioral health issues among youth and their families.
One way Wellspring is working to keep "prevention" in focus during this trying time is through virtual Town Hall Meetings and presentations on topics related to prevention. We are also offering a virtual version of our Strengthening Families Program, where families commit to holding 11 weekly family sessions, view video lessons and complete session work sheets. Wellspring staff will be available for weekly Zoom check-ins to host different family activities and discussions. For our senior populations, we have a series of topic fact sheets and worksheets that are discussed weekly at a group conference call.