Monthly Archives: September 2010

Q&A: Championing Certification

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.


Legislative Corner – September 10, 2010

by Andrew Kessler, Federal Policy Liaison

Prevention, in all areas of health, has been a centerpiece of President Obama’s health care agenda. Much of the recent legislation focused on improving health care across the country is centered around prevention. Substance abuse is no exception. Substance abuse prevention programs can benefit from health care reform and other domestic policies, but the picture is not entirely optimistic.

A classic example of substance abuse prevention being linked to the bigger picture of prevention in general is the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act (HR 5297).  Senator Johanns of Nebraska has proposed an amendment to this legislation that could severely impact the funding of prevention programs across the board. The amendment would use the Prevention and Public Health Fund from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as an offset for an amendment offered by Senator Johanns (No. 4531). Such an action would virtually eliminate the Fund and mark a severe blow to this monumental commitment to prevention and public health under the Act.

The Fund is intended to ensure a coordinated, comprehensive, sustainable, and accountable approach to improving our country’s health outcomes through the most effective prevention and public health programs. ACA clearly states that the money be used “for programs authorized by the Public Health Service Act, for prevention, wellness, and public health activities.” The money would be strategically used to support disease prevention by promoting access to vaccines, building the public health workforce, and investing in community-based prevention. Furthermore, the Act specifically states that community-based prevention funding must only support evidence-based prevention programs, which have been shown through scientific research to reduce chronic disease and address health disparities. Research has shown that effective community level prevention activities, including smoking cessation, can reduce chronic disease rates and have a significant return on investment.

We have already seen these funds invested for programs to promote tobacco control and implement tobacco cessation services and campaigns. The fund has been invested to support state, local and tribal public health efforts to advance health promotion and disease prevention, and to build state and local capacity to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. Currently, SAMHSA is slated to receive $40 million from the fund, to work on the integration of substance abuse prevention and treatment into the primary care setting. The funds are also being used to support the training of current and next generation public health professionals. The Fund is a unique opportunity to truly bend the cost curve on health care spending.

Speaking of SAMHSA, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) is in the midst of an unusual experiment. On June 22 of this year, SAMHSA Administrator Pam Hyde announced that CSAP director Fran Harding would switch jobs with Center for Mental Health Services CMHS director A. Kathryn Power, an experiment that would last six months. The reason given by Hyde was an “opportunity provides a mechanism for them to gain hands on understanding of different program and policy aspects of all three of these initiatives which will make the collaboration of the Centers on them all the more robust.”

Harding continues in her lead role for the Prevention Initiative, as does Power for Military Families and Homelessness. Hyde expressed she was “very confident that they will not only perform well but help each Center broaden its perspective and ultimately help SAMHSA carry out its mission in a more collaborative way.” 

At ONDCP, for the first time, there is now a senior staff member responsible solely for prevention policy. Dr. Jack Stein has assumed this post, following very successful stints at NIDA and SAMHSA. At SAMHSA, he was director of the Division of Services Improvement in the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. At NIDA, he was Deputy Director of the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research. He was significantly involved at NIDA in developing science-to-service activities, and worked closely with SAMHSA in that capacity.

Webinar: Understanding Primary and Behavioral Healthcare Integration

IC&RC members have expressed a great deal of interest in health care reform and how policy changes will affect the addiction and prevention profession.  This webinar, from the National Council, could be helpful for organizations and individuals who are seeking to understand the changing landscape. Feel free to spread the word!
Understanding Primary and Behavioral Healthcare Integration
Wednesday, September 15
2:00 pm eastern, 1:00 pm central, 12:00 pm mountain, 11:00 am pacific, 10:00 am alaska
Individuals bring their medical and behavioral health problems with them to both medical care and specialty behavioral healthcare. Efforts to promote primary and behavioral healthcare integration (PBHCI) are taking hold across the country. What is integration and what does it exactly mean for access to mental and substance use services? This webinar is an essential primer for staff, consumers, and others who need to hear how primary and behavioral healthcare integration is becoming a vital part of the behavioral health system of care. Register and invite others to join us for this special event co-hosted by the National Council and Mental Health America.
Laurie Alexander, PhD
Laurie Alexander is a behavioral health consultant specializing in integrated healthcare. Prior to consulting, she worked for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health in Texas. In her role as program officer, she was responsible for the foundation’s integrated healthcare activities, including a demonstration grant program, policy work, and a comprehensive resource guide. Ms. Alexander also has experience in mental health advocacy and completed postdoctoral training in public health and traumatic stress. She has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a M.A. in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.
Register now or email questions to or call 202.684.7457.