Engaging Human Services and Behavioral Health Professionals in Youth-led, Adult-guided Social Action Initiatives





prevention, education, training, Capacity Building, advocacy


Professional and community leaders in Washington, DC have expressed the need for more capacity building and increased resources to address health inequities in the city’s underserved African American communities.  Inequities (“food deserts,” community decay, and limited youth opportunities) require equity-informed approaches. Disparities (disproportionate substance use/behavioral health disorders) also require system-level approaches. In response, the Wards 7 and 8 DC Prevention Center (DCPC), a community-based nonprofit, collaborated with residents, community partners, and academic institutions to provide trainings and certifications to its team and community stakeholders.

Initially, DCPC Staff were trained through evidence-informed approaches including Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS) and Photovoice. CPS training uses workshops and tools from the DC Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) to train staff/students to conduct assessments and build community partnerships. Photovoice provides a less intimidating process for vulnerable populations and professionals to collect data, identify social/environmental factors that impact health and well-being, share concerns, communicate with policymakers, and identify solutions to collectively address issues. 

In turn, DCPC Staff trained youth and professionals to conduct Photovoice assessments to highlight the misuse of opioids and the negative effects on their communities. Stakeholders continue to request the assistance of CPSs; and community partners seek the trainings for themselves. Academic partners have a community-based resource for students/faculty to learn from and support equity-informed initiatives. This paper presents additional lessons learned/best practices in how to apply this multi-component approach as an effective strategy for preparing professionals and students to engage in social action in similar areas, despite high risks and glaring inequities.


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How to Cite

Hill, K., Parker, R., Randolph Cunningham, S., & Ramsey, L. (2023). Engaging Human Services and Behavioral Health Professionals in Youth-led, Adult-guided Social Action Initiatives. Journal for Social Action in Counseling & Psychology, 14(2), 35–47. https://doi.org/10.33043/JSACP.14.2.35-47