Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $1,217,477)
REAL Mentoring (Realizing Excellence, Achievement and Leadership) will improve youth outcomes through quality community-based mentoring for 200 youth ages 12 to 17, and will also enhance mentoring services by implementing a prevention and youth mentoring strategy based on research and evidence-based practices. The model will incorporate opioid use disorder prevention/teaching roles for mentors in established community-based organizations in the communities of Windham, Torrington, Waterbury, Hartford, and Bridgeport, Connecticut. Using a prevention framework to provide training, technical assistance, tools, and resources to support youth impacted by opioids, REAL Mentoring’s goals are to: 1) Build and sustain an opioid prevention mentoring infrastructure to effectively address the needs of youth ages 12 -17 at-risk of academic failure, involvement with the juvenile justice system and opioid use disorder; 2) Increase the capacity of at least 13 programs to provide mentoring services for a total of 200 young people in targeted communities who will be matched with specially trained substance use prevention mentors (REAL Mentors); 3) Raise awareness among youth, mentors, parents, and adult caregivers about harms associated with opioid use disorder; and 4) Demonstrate improved outcomes for youth participating in the REAL Mentoring intervention. The REAL Mentoring model has three primary components: 1) a web-based mentee referral portal; 2) enhanced community-based mentoring services that incorporates the adolescent version of the Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT-A) to identify the level of substance use prevention strategy to use; and 3) community awareness campaigns that focus on opioid misuse and provide opportunities for mentor and mentee volunteer activities. The Governor’s Prevention Partnership (The Partnership) will lead the initiative and partner with local mentoring programs in the targeted communities, the Regional Behavioral Health Action Organizations (RBHAOs) that are funded by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) to provide training on SBIRT-A, the use of the CRAFFT screening tool, and technical assistance in the adaptation of the E3 curriculum, a peer-led initiative created by the Partnership. The project also leverages support from the DMHAS-funded Center for Prevention Evaluation and Statistics (CPES) that maintains the SEOW Prevention Data Portal to increase accessibility and utility of Connecticut’s epidemiological data in support of a comprehensive approach to substance abuse prevention and health promotion. Diamond Research Consulting LLC will conduct an independent mixed methods evaluation of REAL Mentoring which will inform its implementation, dissemination, and sustainability efforts.