While trends in the amount and variety of drugs and alcohol consumed have fluctuated over the decades as reported in the National Institute on Drug Abuse's Monitoring the Future (MTF) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) surveys, the issue remains – the levels of consumption of drugs, misuse of prescription medications, and use of alcohol are still significant and are detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the nation's youth. Adolescent substance use often "flies under the radar" until use escalates and problems in school or at home develop. Most health care practitioners, including physicians, do not receive training on substance use disorders as part of their medical education. As a result, they are ill-equipped to identify and address substance use as part of routine healthcare. For example, less than half of pediatricians screen their adolescent patients for substance use (Harris et al, 2012). Furthermore, physicians' reliance on personal judgment versus a standardized screening tool has been shown to miss problem use more than 75% of the time (Wilson et al., 2004).
In 2013, the Board of Directors of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation (Foundation) approved a five-year strategy focused on developing and implementing substance use prevention and early intervention services for youth. As part of its strategy, the Foundation has identified three primary objectives for prevention and early intervention services:
* Expand education and training
* Increase access and strengthen implementation
* Develop and disseminate knowledge
The Strategic Initiative is designed to advance the understanding of substance use as a health issue by implementing screening and early intervention approaches to prevent and reduce substance use among youth as part of routine practice in health care and other settings where they receive services. In this rapidly-evolving field, the Foundation has outlined and executed a structured approach to fund programs designed to move the needle in training, delivery, and evaluation of youth-related substance use prevention and early intervention activities, specifically emphasizing the screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) framework. Through the Strategic Initiative, Foundation grantees develop training and technical assistance curriculums and toolkits, implement innovative screening and early intervention approaches in a variety of settings, and conduct systems change activities designed to prevent and reduce youth substance use and promote health and wellbeing.
In 2014, Abt Associates was selected by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation as their Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) partner for its Youth Substance Use Prevention and Early Intervention Strategic Initiative. The grant to Abt Associates represents an important opportunity for and collaboration between the Foundation, its grantees, Abt, and the broader stakeholder field.