Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)


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When thinking about sustainability, prevention practitioners typically think of sustaining prevention programs. But best practice challenges us to think about sustainability more contextually; to consider the multiple factors that contribute to program success—such as the existence of stable prevention infrastructure, available training systems, and community support—and work toward sustaining these contributors.

Best practice also encourages us to think critically about which activities we should, or should not, sustain. Our ultimate goal is to sustain prevention outcomes, not programs. Programs that produce positive outcomes should be continued. Programs that are ineffective should not be sustained.

In addition, SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework emphasizes sustaining the prevention process, itself, recognizing that practitioners will return to each step of the process, again and again, as the problems communities face continue to evolve.

Tips for increasing sustainability include the following:

  • Think about sustainability from the beginning. Too often, practitioners wait until the 11th hour to begin thinking about sustainability. But building support, showing results, and ultimately, obtaining continued funding all takes time. So it’s critical to think about who needs to be at the table, from the beginning.
  • Build ownership among stakeholders. The more invested stakeholders become, the more likely they will be to support prevention activities for the long term. Involve them early on and find meaningful ways to keep them involved. Stakeholders who are involved in assessment activities are more likely to support prevention activities that stem from the assessment. They are also more likely to sustain these activities, over time.
  • Track and tout outcomes. A well designed and executed evaluation helps you determine which activities to keep and which to get rid of. It can also help demonstrate effectiveness. Then share outcomes with community members so that they can become champions of your efforts.
  • Identify program champions willing to speak about and promote prevention efforts.
  • Invest in capacity—at both the individual and systems levels. Teach people how to assess needs, build resources, and effectively plan and implement prevention programs and create the systems necessary to support these activities, over time.
  • Identify diverse resources, including human, financial, material, and technological. Be sure to identify and tap as many of these as possible.

Many grantees have developed materials related to and/or describing their assessment processes. Links to these materials are contained on their respective State, Tribe, or Jurisdiction pages. Click here to access these resources.

Selected SAMHSA's CAPT Services

Assist States, Tribes, and Jurisdictions to:

  • Engage key stakeholders from other behavioral health sectors in prevention activities
  • Identify funding sources
  • Track data sources
  • Use evaluation findings to build support for prevention activities

Developed under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies contract (Reference #HHSS277200800004C).