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Guam needs more training, assistance for substance abuse

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As the director of the substance abuse prevention for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration concludes her trip to Guam and other islands in the region, she shared what she has learned from her visit. It's the first time SAMHSA's Frances Harding has visited Guam.

She is the agency's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention director and is on island for a listening and learning tour. And she said, "I am here to do a programmatic overview and to bring greetings from SAMHSA, and to learn as much as we can about our service delivery and our islands in the Pacific. Are they having any problems with the implementation of their grants and learning more about their traditions? And how we can better serve them?"

Guam is one of five islands Harding is visiting. She is meeting with leaders and stakeholders to learn about mental health and substance abuse related services in hopes to meet their main goal of taking behavioral health and connecting it to overall health. She added, "What I was talking abuse mental health, mental illness and mental health promotion and overall health and how we connect and that we are losing to many people to substance abuse and mental health disorders and not looking at the overall connection with health."

Already she's seen a recurring problem within all five jurisdictions she's visited, noting, "The biggest problem seems to be drinking underage drinking particularly for our youth - that's where most of our money is focused because we are in the world of prevention."

Meanwhile, the second biggest problem on island is tobacco use and betel nut use. She says the challenge is the need for more technical assistance and training so that the workforce is certified. But the challenges and problems aren't the only things she has seen. "The good is that people in all of the islands that we have been visiting are really doing fantastic work. They are taking the strategies and the intent of all of our money and actually looking at the programming and meeting the needs the most needs of the population so we couldn't be happier," Harding stated.

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