Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

A Behavioral Health Lens for Prevention

Prevention as Part of a Continuum of Care

A comprehensive approach to behavioral health also means seeing prevention as part of an overall continuum of care. The Behavioral Health Continuum of Care Model helps us recognize that there are multiple opportunities for addressing behavioral health problems and disorders. Based on the Mental Health Intervention Spectrum, first introduced in a 1994 Institute of Medicine report, the model includes these components:

The Behavioral Health Continuum of Care Model
  • Promotion: These strategies are designed to create environments and conditions that support behavioral health and the ability of individuals to withstand challenges. Promotion strategies also reinforce the entire continuum of behavioral health services.
  • Prevention: Delivered prior to the onset of a disorder, these interventions are intended to prevent or reduce the risk of developing a behavioral health problem, such as underage alcohol use, prescription drug misuse and abuse, and illicit drug use.
  • Treatment: These services are for people diagnosed with a substance use or other behavioral health disorder.
  • Recovery: These services support individuals’ compliance with long-term treatment and aftercare.

Keep in mind, however, that interventions do not always fit neatly into one category or another. For example, consider co-morbidity. If some disorders (like substance use) are risk factors for other disorders (like depression)—does that mean that all treatment can be seen as prevention? Each prom season, communities across the nation implement safe driving campaigns—are they promoting healthy lifestyles or preventing potential substance use?


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