Utahn Leads National Project To Provide Information On Mental Health And Substance Abuse

Mar 18, 2014

US map of illicit drug use
Illicit Drug Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by State: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2010 and 2011.
Credit SAMHSA / Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality

Nationally, 18 percent of adults have a mental illness and seven percent have a substance abuse disorder. Now, a national project attempts to find solutions.

At a time when state and local budgets are tight in both cities and rural areas, it can be difficult to find and provide information giving a realistic picture of mental illness and substance abuse solutions to leaders. Enter Don Albrecht.

“The concern of this project is that nationwide there are lots of concerns about substance abuse and growing mental health issues. And a lot of times the people in decision making roles within the communities, number one, they're not aware of the extent of the problems in their communities compared to other communities, number 2, a lot of times they don't really know how to address these issues. And there are great differences in the extent of this problem from one community to another. It varies greatly from one city to another city."

The CAPE project combines the efforts of the four rural development centers, giving the project national reach. Albrecht is the director of the Western Rural Development Center.

"And so what we're doing by benchmarking it, we're trying to look at trends and then compare across communities, so communities can see how they are doing on these issues relative to others."

CAPE stands for the Community Assessment and education to Promote behavioral health planning and Evaluation.

Where are you doing this study, and how did you decide where to begin?

“We put out a national call where we allowed communities all over the nation to fill out a proposal and say who they are and what they would do and how they would work with us. We had 26 communities respond, and the four regional directors along with our advisory committee looked carefully at all 26 applicants and selected 10 of them. One thing that helped us in the selection, we wanted the entire nation to be represented, so there are pilot communities in each of the four regions, and we wanted to get a range of communities from large cities to small rural areas, to a large minority populations, to Native American reservations. So we were trying to get a variety of communities, so we could see a variety of different issues.”

The project has four phases, where are you with the project currently?

Right now in the 10 pilot communities, they are conducting surveys with community leaders. We hope to have that done by April. And then we will look at the data based on what we learned, and then working, again with our committee and the pilot communities because they know what's going on in their community better than we do, and we will begin working on the toolkit and compile sources of information and help them become aware of other information. Compile program and education materials to help them work in their communities.

The 10 communities are in Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

In the end, Albrecht says he's hoping the project is extended to other communities around the country.