Policies to Combat Substance Abuse in Texas Must Include Youth-Focused Prevention and Intervention Strategies

Testimony to House Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse


An important component of combating substance abuse, addiction, and their effects across the lifespan is preventing and treating substance misuse among youth. Schools can — and should — play an important role in stemming the tide of Texans affected by substance abuse and substance use disorder as well as reducing the flow of youth who enter the juvenile justice system. The Legislature should increase the availability of effective school-based substance abuse prevention and intervention programs administered by the Health and Human Services Commission. The Legislature should also establish a trusted center (similar to the Texas School Safety Center) that schools can turn to for reliable information on selecting and implementing practices shown to protect students from the ill effects associated with substance abuse, mental health concerns, and childhood trauma. While increased prevention programs will likely decrease juvenile probation involvement for some youth, the Legislature should look to opportunities to get youth substance use interventions and treatment outside of the juvenile justice system or, when the justice system is necessary, outside of secure lockups whenever possible.