A Historical Perspective of Prevention in Montana

November note:  A historical perspective of Prevention in Montana.

Did you know that there was a Montana Prevention Caucus formed in 1993, whose mission was to promote coordination of statewide public and private resources to support healthy children, families and communities?  A group of dedicated preventionists at the time, started working on the caucus in 1990.  They defined prevention as the proactive process of creating conditions that promote the well-being of people.

Their vision: Every Montanan should have the opportunity to develop to his or her full potential.  Further, all Montanans have a positive role to play in promoting the well-being of themselves and others in their communities.

Their goals:

  1. To impact public policy at the state, community and school levels.
  2. To develop a collaborative statewide prevention resource system to support community prevention activities.
  3. To help Montanans in need gain access to a coordinated support network of government and private sector resources.
  4. To develop a functional group structure and process for the Montana Prevention Caucus that will foster self-sanctioning and ensure inclusion of diverse groups and cultures in the work of the Caucus.

The work set forth the initial Montana prevention infrastructure by the way of securing successful legislation that resulted in MCA 2-15-225, the Interagency Coordinating Council for Prevention to be the backbone of collective substance abuse prevention efforts in the state.

In 1993, prevention theory and practice shifted away from “deficit focused” or “symptom specific” to recognizing that nature and nurture constantly interact, and research tells us that human development is influences by a whole “mosaic of environmental factors working together simultaneously.”  And, that solutions are found through a community problem-solving process that is inclusive of all impacted systems, agencies, organizations, schools, families, individuals and cultures.

The Guiding Principles of Prevention in 1993:

  1. Local people solve local problems.
  2. People support what they help create.
  3. Prevention is not a spectator activity!
  4. Teams are more effective than individuals working in isolation.
  5. People respond better when they know where they are headed.

So why do I share this with you today?  Prevention is work that is constant in moving forward through the marathon that has many zig zags, ups and downs, and unexpected curves.  And, it’s about being proactive in developing relationships and not getting stuck in a single swim lane.  The vision, mission, goals and principles of 1993 laid the foundation for prevention, and to that end, we have been standing on the shoulders of visionary prevention giants to keep these same values moving forward.   And, I hope the prevention field can see through the form and structure we have today, that we are continuing to refine and adjust to bring Prevention of substance abuse and misuse to both the public and policy-makers minds that is built upon the vision established almost 30 years ago!

Over my tenure in prevention, I have learned to be:

  • incredibly patient because the science and the outcomes do not come quickly nor does political will,
  • persistent but not insistent (and creative) to be heard,
  • adaptable and flexible in navigating how to align shared risk and protective factors when funding streams change directions, and,
  • to celebrate small wins in order to keep motivated to get the big wins!

Someone once told me when I first started in the prevention field, that the work is like steering a huge ocean freighter in a storm…you work your tail off to turn the ship captains’ wheel, only to have the ship move ever so slowly!  And, if you let go of the wheel, you find yourself going in a circle.

In mid-December I will be leaving the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services after almost 30 years of public service, with 21 of those years in prevention.  It’s been a tremendous privilege and honor to serve all of you!  Looking ahead, I am incredibly optimistic about the future of prevention. The state is moving in the right direction to support communities in their efforts to identify solutions and strategies to improve the lives of kids and families in our state.  There will be some uncertainty in the upcoming months as things get sorted out at the state level, but the true prevention work happens at the local level, so keep that captain’s wheel a turning!


Upcoming Events:

November 20, 2019 – Prevention in MT Skype

Join Skype Meeting      Join by phone:  406-444-4647   Conference ID: 9040238

December 4, 2019 – Opioids/SUDS Strategic Task Force Meeting in Helena10am to 3pm meeting:

Go To Meeting has been set up:

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
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United States (Toll Free): 1 877 309 2073 or United States: +1 (571) 317-3129
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