BENAVIDES – Duval County Extension Office announced Tuesday that they had recently acquired two grants for the county that would assist individuals in mental health first aid and preventing opioid-related behaviors in adolescents.

The Mental Health First Aid – Rural Texas’ objectives are to raise awareness on opioid use, misuse and related at-risk behaviors in 15 rural Texas counties and increase mental health literacy of adults through Mental Health First Aid training.

Mental Health First Aid – Rural Texas training is a free eight-hour course that covers information regarding mental health issues, opioid and suicide. In addition, the grant allows work to be done in conjunction with Watch UR BAC program to provide opioid use and or misuse presentations along with community scans.

The grant is being overseen by Dr. Lakshmi Muhadevan, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Extension Specialist – Special Population in College Station.

The second grant is called Teens Think Smart: A Novel Approach To Preventing Opioid Misuse Among Adolescents In Rural Texas. It will focus on adolescents who are vulnerable to risky health behaviors such as the non-medical use of prescription opioids.

Rural prescription opioid misuse among adolescents also present a public health concern. In a nationally representative sample of 32,036 adolescents aged 12-17, higher rates of misuse were observed among rural 6.8 percent of adolescents than 6 percent of small urban and 5.3 percent of large urban.

The seriousness of the problem among teens is evidenced by significant increases in the number of opioid-related exposures reported to the Texas Poison Center network for those between 13 to 19 years of age, approximately 429 cases.

This jump signals an alarm for a public health response with upstream solutions that need to target younger adolescents. There is scant research exploring applications of the social ecological model to develop a rural adolescent opioid abuse and misuse prevention program. This proposed project, Teens Think Smart, seeks to address this gap in health programming with the intervention.

Teens Think Smart is a novel multi-level, community-based opioid abuse and misuse prevention intervention targeting rural 9th and 10th grade students. The intervention consists of two evidence-based components: 1) community mobilization strategy and 2) a school-based prevention education curriculum, Think Smart.

The proposed project will adapt the culturally-appropriate version developed for rural Alaskan youth. To this end, Think Smart will be tailored to meet the needs of Texas adolescents, specifically those in 9th and 10th grades. Through this grant seven rural Texas counties will be targeted including Blanco, Crockett, Duval, Knox, McCulloch, San Saba, and Starr. Following the two-year project, Teens Think Smart will be manualized for dissemination to other Texas counties.

If interested in more information on either grant or to be a part of the Teens Think Smart Coalition, please contact Marisa Dimas at marisa.dimas@ag.tamu.edu.