Can drug abuse prevention researchers team up with existing national, State, and local service delivery systems to accelerate the implementation of research-based drug abuse prevention programs in communities throughout the Nation? Dr. Richard Spoth of Iowa State University in Ames has been devising a system to make this happen. His proposed approach builds on experience university researchers gained in building partnerships with the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Iowa public schools, and local community participants. Those partnerships have succeeded in implementing effective family-focused drug abuse prevention programs throughout the State. (See "Putting Science-Based Drug Abuse Prevention Programs to Work in Communities")
The new strategy calls for the formation of Public Education-Extension Prevention Partnerships (PEPPs) consisting of university prevention research scientists and personnel from the national Extension Service network and the U.S. Department of Education (ED). In these PEPPs, researchers would work with regional Extension Service prevention coordinators and coordinators from ED's Safe and Drug-Free Schools (SDFS) program. These regional coordinators would, in turn, support local teams of extension agents, elementary and secondary school faculties and staffs, community interagency coalition members, and other members of the community. The PEPPs would provide critically needed technical assistance to States and communities and help build their capacity to sustain effective, empirically based family and youth competency training programs in communities, eventually throughout the United States.
"Both the Extension Service and ED already have the infrastructure in place to provide the technical assistance for doing what we propose," Dr. Spoth says. The Extension Service has more than 9,600 local agents working in 3,150 counties across the Nation. ED has more than 100 technical assistance centers that support efforts to adopt empirically supported programs that can reduce substance abuse, violence, and other conduct problems in the schools. Furthermore, ED's SDFS program currently has coordinators in schools to facilitate the implementation of such research-based programs.
Much research must be done to test and refine the proposed strategy before it can be disseminated on a large scale. However, in light of recent efforts by these and other Federal agencies to expand implementation of empirically supported programs that increase family and youth competency and reduce harmful behaviors, "the timing seems right to mold this partnership to promote positive youth development and strong families," Dr. Spoth says.