Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention:

Multiple Youth Programs Raise Questions of Efficiency and Effectiveness

T-HEHS-97-166: Published: Jun 24, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 1997.

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Carlotta C. Joyner
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its work on federal substance-abuse and violence-prevention programs for youth, focusing on: (1) the information available about substance abuse and violence prevention programs and the federal investment in them; (2) what is known about the effectiveness of federally funded programs in reducing youth substance abuse and violence; and (3) improving the federal effort by focusing more on accountability and results.

GAO noted that: (1) its reviews have raised questions about the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal effort in this area; (2) the system that has developed, of multiple federal programs dispersed among several agencies, has created potential for inefficient service as well as difficulty for those trying to access the most appropriate services and funding sources; (3) GAO identified 70 federal programs that could have been used in fiscal year 1995 to provide substance abuse and violence prevention services for youth; (4) these programs were located in 13 federal departments or other federal entities and had appropriations of about $2.4 billion; (5) state, county, and local governments, as well as private sources, provided billions of dollars for substance abuse prevention and treatment efforts for adults and youth; (6) often, insufficient information exists on these programs' performance; (7) although GAO identified some promising approaches for preventing substance abuse and violence, its work suggests that additional research is needed to further test these approaches' effectiveness and their applicability to different populations in varied settings; (8) a major information gap exists for federal decisionmakers who need to know the accomplishments of these individual federal programs and the combination of those programs; (9) the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 can move agencies toward a more integrated approach to meeting common goals and a greater emphasis on accountability and assessment of program results; and (10) this emphasis will require agencies not only to better document federal programs' progress toward achieving their goals of preventing substance abuse and violence, but also to identify which service delivery approaches have been effective and encourage greater use of the more effective models.

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