Partners in Prevention aims to tackle substance abuse

February 21, 2019

La PORTE — The Health Care Foundation of La Porte has begun a school-based prevention program that will focus on substance abuse.

The foundation hosted their Partners in Prevention workshop at the Holiday Inn Express on Feb. 13.

Representatives from area schools who received grants from the foundation gathered to discuss strategies on how to impact their schools and communities in the fight against substance abuse and other pervasive problems.

The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte has granted $73,306 in funding for implementation of Partners in Prevention initiatives, as well as continuation of those initiatives over the next four years. These grants will reach more than 17,500 students in La Porte County via 12 different schools.

President CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte Maria Fruth shared what inspired Partners in Prevention.

“One of the main concerns from the board of directors was that of the opioid crisis,” Fruth said. “Not only did we hear from them, but we kept hearing the same concern from people in the community. They came to [the foundation] asking ‘now that you have this money, how are you going to fix [the opioid crisis]?’”

This program was based off of a model that the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation had previously found successful. The Fairbanks Foundation had created a system that assessed the adverse effects of opioid addiction in La Porte County and determined how extensive the need for preventative measures were in the area.

With these grants, the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte is aiming to utilize the recommendations of the Fairbanks Foundation, as well as their own strategies for prevention, starting with using evidence-based prevention programs in schools in order to hinder the opioid epidemic.

HFL believes that school-based prevention will give students the tools they need to help them avoid addictive substances as well as improve their academic achievement, attendance, behavior and social and emotional health. They are hopeful that school-based prevention may help lessen violence and bullying in La Porte.

“Through this process you are finding a way of embedding this into your culture, training as many people in prevention as possible, and finding different ways of sustaining this program,” Fruth said. “Our goal as a foundation is to address of these needs individually. If we just keep pouring all of our resources into one need, the rest of the needs remain unbalanced.”

RTI international, a nonprofit research institute whose goal is to improve the human condition by turning knowledge into practice has been heavily involved in the planning phases for this initiative. The team at RTI is meeting with all of the grant recipients to learn about what their plans are in order to design an evaluation study that will help capture the impact that their programs are having on their respective schools.

Evaluation Researcher for RTI international Lori-Ann Palen gave some explanation about how the programs’ effectiveness will be graded.

“We are in the planning stages right now,” Palen said. “We think that our study is going to involve primarily survey research. It may involve finding out what these groups were like at the start of the program and how they change over the course of the Partners in Prevention program.”

Partners in Prevention is expected to be implemented in the fall of next year.

The foundation will be continuing to award grant money to schools who meet their evidence-based standards.

“It’s about evaluation,” said Special Projects Manager Mary Wellnitz. “Yes, they are given money and they are given hand-holding, but we are also going to evaluate over the four-year process. We are all going to work together to identify primary and secondary indicators [of progression] and then the foundation is going to evaluate those indicators.”

The schools will have an additional three years of funding after they begin their initiatives in the fall. During that time they will have the continued support from the Education Development Center and RTI international in order to aid in implementation and collect data for evaluating the success of their programs.