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Georgia Consumer Groups Take New Approach to Keep Youth on Healthy Path

July 18, 2014

Young people in Georgia are gaining access to health insurance at historic levels, creating new opportunities to increase access to essential prevention and treatment services. At the same time, misuse of and addiction to alcohol and drugs blunt the potential of too many young Georgians. To fight this drug epidemic, Georgians for a Healthy Future and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse are launching an initiative to expand services to prevent addiction in youth.

Together, the two organizations will run a three-year project in Georgia to improve access to effective screening and intervention services that can minimize the destructive consequences of alcohol and drug misuse and addiction among our youth. This new effort, focused on youth ages 15 to 22, will combine a cost-effective public health approach called Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) with the power of consumer-led advocacy. Georgia is one of five states selected to participate in the national project managed by Community Catalyst, a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization, and funded by a $2.5 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which will be paired with $1.7 million from other sources. The other states are Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The project aims to improve access and coverage for early screening and intervention services by increasing both the number and type of locations where youth can access those services, and increasing the number and type of professionals who can conduct screening and brief intervention. Community Catalyst will gather and disseminate the lessons learned from Georgia to improve screening and intervention nationwide.

“Risky substance use puts Georgia’s youth at high risk for addiction later in life,” said Neil Kaltenecker, Executive Director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse. “We are seeing the tragic results of this in the reports about opioid overdoses and suicides.”

“We look forward to working with a range of partners in communities throughout Georgia to make sure early screening and prevention programs are available to all of Georgia’s at risk teens,” added Cindy Zeldin, Executive Director of Georgians for a Healthy Future. “Together, we can improve the lives of young Georgians and their families while reducing the huge societal and health care costs associated with addiction.”

Georgians for a Healthy Future and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse will create a public health education campaign that brings together the power of local community groups that care about this issue, which has been an effective approach to serve local needs that impact the healthy decisions of Georgia's youth. Stakeholders will include youth organizations, parents groups, teachers, organizations working to reduce addiction, faith groups and health care providers.

Reprinted with permission from Georgia Council on Substance Abuse and Georgians for a Healthy Future.