SAMHSA’S CAPT is charged with providing capacity-building training and technical assistance (T/TA) to help States, Tribes, and Jurisdictions better prevent substance abuse and related behavioral health issues in their communities.
But what does effective T/TA in the prevention field look like? What forms does it take, and what information does it deliver? What value does it add, and how can its impact be measured?
To generate thoughtful discussion around these questions, SAMHSA’s CAPT recently hosted a two-day meeting that brought together some of the nation’s leading thinkers on studying and providing effective T/TA. About 20 researchers and practitioners from across the country convened in Boston, Mass., October 5–6, to brainstorm what T/TA content SAMHSA’s CAPT should provide to its clients and what T/TA methods it should employ.
Framing the meeting’s discussions were two critical developments in the prevention field. First, state offices that provide or oversee prevention services have seen their budgets slashed in recent years. As a T/TA provider to States—and Tribes and Jurisdictions—SAMHSA’s CAPT must help them to develop more efficient and creative ways of supporting local-level prevention efforts, and this may require the CAPT to redesign some of its services.
Second is a new federal priority to align substance abuse prevention with efforts to address other behavioral health problems, particularly given the shared risk and protective factors between mental illness and substance use.
“SAMHSA’s looking for a greater level of integration across behavioral health care,” said CAPT Principal Investigator Wayne Harding. “This is an exciting opportunity for the CAPT to expand its impact, but it also presents a challenge from a content perspective. What skills and information should the CAPT provide to both prevent substance abuse and promote mental health?”
The meeting offered a few formal presentations—including one on SAMHSA’s Strategic Initiatives and another by University of Rhode Island Psychology Professor Paul Florin that summarized the research literature on effective T/TA related to prevention. However, unlike typical conferences, participants spent the majority of their time in facilitated, small groups exploring such questions as:
- What are the major themes for T/TA that supports both substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion?
- What is the added value of T/TA to States, Tribes, and Jurisdictions and local communities trying to prevent substance abuse and related behavioral health problems?
- How should T/TA needs be assessed? How do you deal with disparities between what the client wants versus what the provider judges to be the client’s needs?
- To what extent (and how) should T/TA vary by population served?
- How should T/TA effectiveness be evaluated (feasibility versus rigor)?
- What are the key skills and abilities of an effective TA provider?
The invited participants were enthusiastic about the meeting, Harding said, and many inquired about an opportunity to reconvene in the future.
“Effective T/TA is a curiously under-researched and underdeveloped area,” he added, “There is a strong need to advance knowledge in this field.”
Additional participants included CSAP representatives, who provided guidance on emerging federal expectations of State, Tribe, and Jurisdiction prevention systems, and selected CAPT staff. Proceedings are being prepared and will be analyzed with the goal of developing new products, including a formal research review of the T/TA literature related to substance abuse and behavioral health issues, a published journal article based on the research review, and concrete tools or materials that can guide the prevention workforce in its T/TA delivery.
For more information about the T/TA services provided by SAMSHA’s CAPT, please visit: http://captus.hhd.org/about-us/types-services.