Preventing Risky Behaviors
A team from Montclair State Family and Child Services that delivers and evaluates substance abuse and HIV prevention for at-risk teens is making a difference in the lives of young people in Paterson, N.J.
Now in the fifth year of a $1.67 million grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the initiative, known as Project COPE, is a culturally tailored, community-based program that serves up to 1,000 teens each year.
Through research with the youth, Montclair State’s specialists are finding that their work is also improving attitudes among the teens regarding the importance of school, getting tested for HIV and not engaging in risky behaviors. The services provided through Project COPE (Communities Organizing for Prevention and Empowerment) are endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and specifically target at-risk African American and Latino teens, ages 12 to 17.
“In order to continue getting federal funding, we have to show the outcomes of what we’re doing, so we are always evaluating the program’s effectiveness,” says Associate Professor and Principal Investigator Robert Reid.
The program, a collaborative effort between Montclair State and numerous community-based organizations, helps social services agencies by providing health education and intensive case management services.
Prevention specialists connect individuals and families with community resources and work with them to avoid risks in their communities. The program provides workshops not only on substance abuse and HIV/AIDS but also on other sexually transmitted diseases, tobacco use prevention, healthy relationships, career development and gang awareness.
Current funding for the program runs through September 2013, and Reid has applied for a Drug-Free Communities grant from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to continue the work well into the future.
“We give the youth the information they need,” says Reid, who works with co-investigator Dr. Pauline Garcia-Reid and several interns each semester.
“Some of the young people have told us that it is the first time someone took an interest in them and really cared,” Reid says. “It makes a difference in how they perceive themselves. And that affects the choices they make.”