Multisite Cost Analysis of a School-Based Voluntary Alcohol and Drug Prevention Program
Published in: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, v. 72, no. 5, Sep. 2011, p. 823-832
OBJECTIVE: This article estimates the societal costs of Project CHOICE, a voluntary after-school alcohol and other drug prevention program for adolescents. To our knowledge, this is the first cost analysis of an after-school program specifically focused on reducing alcohol and other drug use. METHOD: The article uses microcosting methods based on the societal perspective and includes a number of sensitivity analyses to assess how the results change with alternative assumptions. Cost data were obtained from surveys of participants, facilitators, and school administrators; insights from program staff members; program expenditures; school budgets; the Bureau of Labor Statistics; and the National Center for Education Statistics. RESULTS: From the societal perspective, the cost of implementing Project CHOICE in eight California schools ranged from $121 to $305 per participant (Mdn = $238). The major cost drivers included labor costs associated with facilitating Project CHOICE, opportunity costs of displaced class time (because of in-class promotions for Project CHOICE and consent obtainment), and other efforts to increase participation. Substituting nationally representative cost information for wages and space reduced the range to $100-$206 (Mdn = $182), which is lower than the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's estimate of $262 per pupil for the "average effective school-based program in 2002." Denominating national Project CHOICE costs by enrolled students instead of participants generates a median per-pupil cost of $21 (range: $14-$28). CONCLUSIONS: Estimating the societal costs of school-based prevention programs is crucial for efficiently allocating resources to reduce alcohol and other drug use. The large variation in Project CHOICE costs across schools highlights the importance of collecting program cost information from multiple sites.