States, tribes, and jurisdictions face a continuing challenge in developing a well-trained workforce to reduce the impact of substance abuse and related behavioral health problems in their communities. SAMHSA’s Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Training: A Behavioral Health Workforce Development Curriculum (SAPST) provides a foundational course in prevention for early-career professionals (1 to 5 years), introducing them to the latest prevention concepts and skills.
“The SAPST is key to building the workforce capacity of states, tribes, and jurisdictions,” says Julie Hogan, co-director of SAMHSA’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (CAPT), which developed the training. “It does two critical things. It introduces state-of-the-art concepts and knowledge essential to delivering effective, evidence-based substance abuse prevention. At the same time, it helps participants develop the skills they need to apply this information to their work.”
The original SAPST, which has been used extensively over the past decade to train prevention practitioners, was first developed in 1997 and revised in 2005. In 2010, the CAPT began fielding requests from states, tribes, and jurisdictions for a comprehensive training that reflected the latest prevention information. In response, the new training incorporates research from the Institute of Medicine’s 2009 report and other sources on topics such as risk and protective factors, substance abuse consumption and consequences across the lifespan, and the importance of understanding prevention in the overall continuum of care. It also provides detailed guidance for implementing each of the five steps of SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (assessment, capacity building, planning, implementation, and evaluation).
Carol Oliver, CAPT director of training and technical assistance, puts it this way: “The SAPST is really a new product, not just a revision of the old one.”
The new SAPST differs from the original version not only in its content, but in its methods. The new training comprises two parts: a five-hour, online component and a four-day in-person training. The online component takes introductory material that was originally delivered in lecture format and presents it in a lively interactive video format that participants can complete on their own time, significantly reducing staff training time and meeting costs.
The in-person training also adheres more closely to best practices in adult learning. According to Hogan, “We followed the learning model that shows people retain more information when they are involved in activities that put what they’re learning into practice. Consistent with this, the new SAPST makes intensive use of case studies to illustrate the material.”
Oliver agrees. “The philosophy with the new SAPST is less ‘telling’ and more ‘doing.’ The training doesn’t tell participants how to do prevention, but it gets them thinking about the best prevention practices and how to fit them to their communities and needs.”
The new training also addresses accreditation. Participants receive two “certificates of training hours” upon successful completion of the online component and the in-person training. These certificates can be applied toward professional credentialing or re-certification. The SAPST has been approved by the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors and endorsed by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium.
The CAPT is developing versions of the training tailored to the needs of practitioners working with Native American/Alaska Native populations and in the Pacific Jurisdictions. To produce these adaptations, training developers have been working closely with tribal leaders and native Pacific Islanders to customize the course materials. Libby Cole, CAPT project associate, explains, “The core of the curriculum will remain constant, but many of the case examples, graphics, and language will be changed to reflect the experiences and perspective of tribes and Pacific Islanders.”
According to Oliver, prevention providers who have received the new training have responded enthusiastically. “People tell us that the activities in the face-to-face training help them connect the dots, especially as they are learning about the Strategic Prevention Framework,” says Oliver. “Through the case studies, they are able to actually see how each step of the SPF informs the next.”
For more information, contact:
Carol Oliver , Director of Training and Technical Assistance, SAMHSA’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies
Julie Hogan , Co-Director, SAMHSA’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies
 National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2009). Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press