Next month, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP)–one of three Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration centers in the United States Department of Health and Human Services–will give State Incentive Grants to nine states, awarding close to $27 million in total.

The grants, which average about $3 million for a three-year period, are provided to states to develop and implement effective and comprehensive statewide prevention strategies aimed at reducing drug use by youth. Schools have the opportunity to be the recipients of at least some of the awarded money.

“We’ve always viewed the schools as major components within those communities,” said David Robbins, acting director of the Division of State Community Systems Development for CSAP. “In the field of prevention, we’ve found that school-based programs are often the most effective for communities to try to put together.”

Eighty-five percent of the funds awarded to each state must be contracted out to community participants, which include schools.

“That 85 percent of the $3 million usually goes out to 15 to 25 communities within the state, so the average grant [to each community] is between $75,000 and $150,000,” explained Robbins. It’s up to each state to decide which communities will receive money from the grant, and that’s where the schools come in.

“The most important thing is to try to convince the policymakers at the state level that the school systems need to be players,” he said.

One advantage for schools is that programs are expected to be science-based and proven to work, and there are many effective proven prevention models that have been developed using school-based programs. (For CSAP program ideas, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/centers/csap/modelprograms.)

How states decide to award the grant money varies, said Robbins: “Each state [typically] will put out a request for a contract and allow communities to compete.” They’ll be given a program description, and the competing communities come back with a proposal. Part of that proposal must include the selection of an effective prevention program.

However, Robbins warned, other groups–such as coalitions, local governments, and community organizations–will be competing against schools for funds.