A new $1.5 million intervention research project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is designed to help prevent substance abuse among youth in North Carolina’s rural communities, with project activities centered in Robeson County.
UNC School of Social Work associate professor Trenette Clark Goings, Ph.D., will develop “Substance Use Prevention and Education for Robeson (SUPER)” with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The five-year project will begin in October 2019.
“We will target underage drinking, cigarette use and e-cigarette use, or ‘vaping,’ which is currently a national epidemic,” Goings said.
“Between 2011 and 2017, vaping use among North Carolina adolescents increased 1,000%,” she added. “This project is incredibly timely.”
Over the course of the project, Goings and her research team will work with 850 middle school youth (ages 11–14). The youth will participate in an evidence-based life skills training program that focuses on substance abuse and violence prevention.
SUPER will provide a separate evidence-based prevention program for approximately 250 parents and caregivers, in addition to training for more than 50 community stakeholders, including teachers, principals, counselors and physicians.
The research team will reach an additional 4,000 youth through a comprehensive public awareness program about substance abuse prevention.
“The interventions will be culturally congruent and will focus on risk behaviors that are associated with initial and escalating use of alcohol, cigarettes and e-cigarettes among youth,” Goings said.
The project will begin with an in-depth needs assessment, in partnership with the North Carolina Youth Violence Prevention Center and with other community organizations that are currently providing services to prevent youth substance use.
“We expect SUPER to be associated with decreased substance use and enhanced protective factors in Robeson County,” Goings said. “Our findings will inform future research, prevention programs and policy.”
The SUPER project has personal significance for Goings, who is a native of rural northeastern North Carolina.
“I grew up in an under-resourced rural county, similar to Robeson County,” Goings said. “I’m excited about the potential of this project to prevent substance use here in Robeson County and someday across the State of North Carolina.”