Green Thumb Initiative (GTI) is a Colorado non-profit organization seeking alternatives to traditional psychotherapy. GTI provides primary prevention, predominantly in its universal and selective form. We work with youth 12-18 and adults in the community in providing education and implement evidence-based prevention programs to reduce the demand for substance use, along with research-based practices increasing the effects of the protective factors in youth and families. We are addressing the behavioural health needs of adults and children through STEAM education, behavioural prevention, therapeutic horticulture and building physical and psychological resilience. The organization’s staff has background in education, biology, horticulture, and mental health. This allows us to custom-design collaborative projects including evidence-based practices in substance abuse prevention. The programs currently are implemented in school and community settings. Sixty-eight students who participated in GTI programming during Spring 2020 completed Baseline Surveys. Challenges reported by these students show that there is substantial need for programs to increase access to healthy food, reduce stress, and increase resiliency. One in five students reported having a diagnosis for a learning disability, such as ADHD, dyslexia, or autism (19%). Fifteen percent reported difficulty concentrating, remembering, or deciding, and 7% reported a traumatic brain injury or TBI. The top areas of improvement in the recently researched three-month school programs are Connection to Resources (70%), Overall Health (66%), Food Insecurity (55%), Compassion (54%), School Performance (51%).
These initial results hold promise that the GTI program could be effective in preventing behaviour disruption and the need for “talk” therapy, and in aftercare upon completion of mental health treatment.