The Botvin LifeSkills® Training Program

The Botvin LifeSkills® Training Program (LST) is a comprehensive, evidence-based program, which provides adolescents and young teens with the confidence and skills necessary to successfully handle challenging situations. It is currently provided free through the University of Delaware 4-H Program for Delaware students 8-14 years old. Developed by Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, a leading prevention expert, LST is backed by over 30 scientific studies and is recognized as a Model or Exemplary program by an array of government agencies including the U.S. Department of Education and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Botvin LifeSkills curriculum lessons include self-image, decision-making, smoking, alcohol, marijuana, advertising, violence and the media, coping with anxiety, coping with anger, communication skills, social skills, assertiveness, and resolving conflicts. The University of Delaware 4-H Program has been teaching the program for over 15 years through various grant-funded programs reaching over 5,000 youth.

The Division of Public Health (DPH) is launching a life-skills pilot program utilizing LST at eight middle schools across Delaware- to teach students the skills they need to prevent addiction, promote positive decision-making and reduce violence. DPH is partnering with the Department of Education to bring the Botvin LifeSkills® curriculum to the classroom.

The pilot program kicked off recently with a train-the-trainer session for 10 teachers who will be using the curriculum. This training was held at the University of Delaware Kent County Cooperative Extension office in Dover and led by University of Delaware 4-H Program staff member Lindsay Hughes who is a certified Botvin Train the Trainer. Both DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay and Representative Ruth Briggs-King visited the training and had the opportunity to welcome teachers and thank them for their participation in this pilot program. Teachers learned interventions to address the social and psychological factors that lead to experimentation with drugs and other undesirable behaviors.

“Adolescents tend to try substances due to peer pressure, family problems, or low self-esteem, and can easily become addicted,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “We wanted to provide teachers with the resources and supports this curriculum offers, to integrate life-skills building and substance use prevention in schools while also helping them to achieve their health education requirements.”

Representative Briggs-King stated “Our pre-teens need the confidence, social skills and self-esteem to reject peer pressure and lower their risk for addiction and violence. One way to help communities is to initiate prevention, and the school setting is ideal. Research suggests that universal lessons to all children – not only to those at higher risk – strengthen children’s self-esteem, decision-making and communication skills.”

Training will be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year, beginning with sixth-graders and reaching approximately 2,000 students. Students will complete pre- and post-tests, which Botvin will analyze and summarize for DPH.

DPH selected middle schools in the Capital, Indian River, Red Clay, and Seaford school districts because they are located in areas with high overdose numbers. The schools offering the Botvin LifeSkills® curriculum are:

• Red Clay School District: Brandywine Springs Middle School
• Capital School District: William Henry and Central middle schools
• Seaford School District: Seaford Middle School
• Indian River School District: Selbyville, Millsboro, and Georgetown middle schools and the Delaware School of the Arts

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