Researchers at Iowa State University will be using nearly $8 million in grants to build a national youth and family development program. Richard Spoth is the director of I.S.U.’s Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute (PPSI).

He says the institute’s programs, which include substance abuse prevention, are administered through public schools, I.S.U. Extension and other community agencies. “Research has been conducted through partnerships in three states,” Spoth said. “With the new funding, we’ll be in a position to build a national network of partnerships, starting with 11 additional states,” Spoth said.

Most of the funding will be focused on expanding PPSI’s program called PROSPER. Spoth says public schools that take part in the program team up with small community “teams” – which receive technical assistance from the university researchers. “They go through a number of procedures to make the community families aware of the programs and recruit them into the program,” Spoth explained.

“Then, in the following year, they offer a school-based program that is linked with the family program and shares the same outcome objectives.” Communities and schools that have implemented the PROSPER model have reported significantly lower rates of substance abuse and other problem behaviors.

Spoth says their research has found schools using the program have half as many students that start using marijuana compared to schools without the program. The $7.9 million in grants are coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Spoth says it’s money well spent.

He reports the research has found a $10 return on every $1 invested in the program.