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PROSPER brings Prevention Programs to Pennsylvania Counties

LEWISTOWN — A new opportunity for youth is coming to Mifflin and Juniata counties.

A two-year grant has been awarded to Penn State and the Prevention Research Center in January to expand a program called PROSPER, Promoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience, to develop PROSPER communities in the two counties, as well as the Shikellamy School District. The program started in the early 2000s as a collaboration between Iowa State University and Penn State University and is now found in 12 counties in Pennsylvania.

PROSPER is a model for bringing evidence-based prevention programs to schools and communities with the goal of strengthening families, building youth skills and reducing youth substance use, as well as other problem behaviors.

PROSPER offers participating communities a menu of programs that are targeted toward middle school age children and consists of an in-school curriculum and an after-school curriculum. A Community Risk Survey was done by the CTC and prevention board in the school districts to find the youths’ strengths and challenges and looks for programs to address risk factors.

Kirk Gilbert, Penn State Extension leader who is heading up the program locally, said the school districts were given choices of what curriculum to use to best meet its needs. Both school districts have chosen the LifeSkills Training program for the in-school program of study and Strengthening the Family for after school.

LifeSkills Training provides students with skills for planning, problem-solving, peer resistance against problem behaviors, anger management, bullying and communication. Gilbert said studies have shown that these protective factors help youth avoid substance use and engaging in risk-taking behaviors.

Melissa Fausey, of the prevention board, said the new board lacks a lot of experience and resources, so this collaboration is a great fit because it gives them programming they wouldn’t have been able to offer for years.

LifeSkills Training is something we have been wanting for a long time,” Fausey said.           

The LifeSkills program will start in the fall at Tuscarora Junior High School and East Juniata High School and it is hoped that the Strengthening the Family program will start in both locations.

Records said she is thrilled to get these two top-rated programs implemented locally, especially since the programs are expensive.

Gilbert said the grant helps pay for materials for the programs, facilitators, meals, child care, training and observers who make sure the programs are delivered with fidelity.

Fausey said the cost/benefit analysis for every $1 invested into prevention is roughly a $5.30 cost savings, which she said is a very conservative figure.

“It’s hard to put a price tag on prevention,” Fausey said. “There really is a cost/benefit instead of intervention and recovery costs. If we focus funding into prevention, it will help us come out ahead in the end.”

“Prevention needs the community behind it and to get as many people involved as possible,” Fausey said.

 

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