The profession of prevention is mature enough to have leaders with decades of experience. For her entire career, Sandra Del Sesto, ICPS, Director of the Institute for Addiction Recovery at Rhode Island College, has promoted the cause of certification – at the state and national levels.
Susan Rumph, ICPS, recently interviewed her for IC&RC Insights.
IC&RC: How long have you been working in prevention?
SDS: For over 30 years. I actually wrote a paper for graduate school about a skills-based prevention program to be implemented in middle schools that was the first prevention program implemented in Rhode Island. This was in the 70s, and serendipitously the state office of substance abuse got a hold of the paper and liked my ideas. They contacted me and wanted me and the woman who co-authored it with me to pilot the program. I was thrilled! The name of the prevention program was “Human Ecology.”
IC&RC: What got you into prevention work in the first place?
SDS: I was working in education and saw the need for a statewide treatment agency, so I became a co-founder of that group in Rhode Island. That led to my work in prevention since I was working with youth at that time.
IC&RC: How long have you been certified?
SDS: For about 15 years, since prevention certification started in Rhode Island. I was also one of the advocates for this.
IC&RC: What is the status of prevention in your state? Mandated, recommended?
SDS: There is not a mandatory certification in Rhode Island. This is actually a frustration of mine. The certification required by the state is at a non-reciprocal level, and I strongly believe that we need the reciprocal level for the prevention specialists doing this work.
IC&RC: Why do you believe that prevention certification is important?
SDS: Certification is important because it’s all about quality assurance. It’s the best way that we can assure fidelity in our work in prevention.
IC&RC: Over the years, what do you see as the most important trends in our field?
SDS: There have been major changes in prevention in that it is now crucial that programs are evidence based, have a strong evaluation component, and include accountability. It wasn’t that way 30 years ago; however, I did include an evaluation piece in all of my first prevention programs.
IC&RC: Why did you decide to become involved in IC&RC?
SDS: I believe strongly in certification, because it provides credibility to our profession. It increases accountability and quality assurance. When I first heard about IC&RC through my state, I applied for the position on our local certification board as a volunteer delegate.
IC&RC: What positions have you held in your state and with IC&RC?
SDS: I am on the Executive Committee for the Rhode Island Board; the Co-Chair for the Prevention Committee of IC&RC; and also the outgoing Secretary for the IC&RC Executive Committee.
IC&RC: What do you do in your free time?
SDS: I love to travel and spend time with my grandsons, ages 6 and 9, and, of course, spend time with my children. I am fortunate that my children and their families all live close to my husband, Richard, and me. My husband and I actually had a commuter marriage for 12 years, but we made it through tha,t coming out of it stronger than before.
IC&RC: What is one thing about you that most people don’t know?
SDS: I once taught high school mathematics and English.
IC&RC: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
SDS: I believe that prevention work will change again dramatically in the next few years in the way that services are provided. With the health care reform that is beginning to affect us and will do so to a much higher degree in the future, we as prevention professionals need to stay informed and ready to respond proactively to the changes.