Preventing Youth Substance Use in the Age of Coronavirus

Preventing Youth Substance Use in the Age of Coronavirus

Schools and non-profits are taking increasing action to protect students and employees from becoming infected with the Coronavirus or COVID-19. 

A recent article in Philanthropy Today titled “Nonprofits Work to Protect Employees and Volunteers as Coronavirus Threat Grows” stated that charities are taking steps to limit travel, encourage remote work and even suspend volunteer projects ( 

Meanwhile, schools across the US, in addition to emphasizing remaining calm, increasing hand washing and covering coughs with arms, are establishing emergency plans to close if the virus spreads. 

Selected school closures have already been reported in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Rhode Island, while others are preparing for online home schooling in the event of further spread of COVID-19. 

Federal support of school closures came from Vice President Mike Pence who recently authorized state officials to close schools if necessary to contain the Coronavirus (  

Where do all of these whiplashing changes leave prevention and health specialists who are charged with and dedicated to preventing youth substance use and promoting positive youth development?  

First, as mentioned before, practice and communicate to students, parents and colleagues to wash hands thoroughly throughout the day, cough into their arm and not their hands, and demonstrate calm.  In addition, stay in close communication with local and state health officials on potential changes regarding Coronavirus spread and updated prevention recommendations. 

Second, prepare for a worst-case situation where students and staff would be sent home.  The key question here is how will you continue to provide effective prevention while students and staff are at home?  Since you don’t have an ability to meet with youth in-person, how can you deliver evidence-based and evidence-informed prevention programs from a distance? 

Unlike typical multi-session classroom based prevention programs, Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW) interventions are a feasible strategy for home delivery because they can be provided in just one 45-minute session using online chat, phone or even booklet to either individual youth or groups of students.  

Since PPW programs are scripted, nearly any staff member and even youth leaders can be trained online in just two-hours to provide brief but powerful prevention messages that promote protective wellness behaviors and identities. 

We even provide online goal plans and pre-posttest surveys so instructors can track how well students progress over time from home.  In addition, online prevention and health youth and parent resources are provided to extend, enhance and sustain your prevention efforts while schools and non-profits remain closed.  

For more information on how you can provide Prevention Plus Wellness programs live online, or by phone or booklet, contact us today: or (904) 472-5022.

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