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National Native American Substance-Abuse Prevention Program Named Best Practice by First Nations Behavioral Health

Resource type: News

National Indian Youth Leadership Project |

The National Indian Youth Leadership Project is an Atlantic grantee. ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The National Indian Youth Leadership Project’s substance-abuse prevention program, Project Venture, has been named as one of nine Tribal Best Practices among other nationwide substance-abuse programs for Native American children by the First Nations Behavioral Health Association. Project Venture was created in 1982 as an alternative to alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse. The project has been recognized by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the federal Department of Health’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices as the first Native American model program. The New Mexico-based program serves more than 750 students in the Four Corner’s area. The program has expanded to 23 states and now Canada. Just on Sunday in a front-page story in The Albuquerque Journal New Mexicans read about a young woman who fell through the cracks because of substance abuse. Project Venture builds a positive peer culture and helps middle-school youth to start thinking about their future and their value to culture and community, said Project Venture and NLYP founder McClellan Hall (Cherokee). Students who participate in Project Venture are less likely to go down that road that leads to helplessness, substance-abuse and disengagement from school. Studies show that programs aimed at middle-schoolers aid in helping these students become more successful in dealing with peer pressure as they move onto high school and are more likely to graduate. Project Venture incorporates outdoor activities, such as hiking and rappelling, with problem-solving and skills-building classroom work to connect students with the contemporary and natural world. The program is delivered during in school, after school and during vacations and includes community involvement. According to an assessment of programs in 2003, students who participated in Project Venture were less likely to increase marijuana and alcohol use. Out of 100 students in one school, 63 percent improved their GPAs and 31 percent reduced school absences. The First Nations Behavioral Health Association, a national organization made up of indigenous clinical psychologists, researchers, doctors and educators, chose NLYP’s Project Venture among 50 programs for its integration of culture, community involvement, potential for replication, effectiveness and sustainability. The Project Venture model will be included in the First Nations Behavioral Health Association’s Compendium of Best Practices for Indigenous American Indian/Alaska Native and Pacific Island Indigenous Populations to be published in December with support from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to a 2002 National High-Risk Youth Study of 48 prevention programs funded by SAMHSA, researchers found NIYLP’s Project Venture to be one of the top four programs for all young people. Youth who go through our programs stay in school and go on to be positive members of our society, Hall said. One PV graduate is working as an engineer at Intel, another is a tribal lawyer. And countless are raising families, serving their communities and living substance-abuse free lives. NIYLP began as a national non-profit in Gallup, N.M., and recently has opened a new international office in Albuquerque. NIYLP, which retains program support services in Gallup, operates with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, the Daniels Foundation, Healing Winds Foundation, Shinnyo-en Foundation, New Mexico Department of Health, the New Mexico Community Foundation, Optium Health, SAMHSA, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, among others. For a full listing of supporting organizations and more information about NLYP and Project Venture, go to

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National Indian Youth Project, Project Venture