Working with youth, it’s sometimes tempting to focus on the here and now — the problems, the struggles, the misbehaviors. But I’ve realized that this approach can be a trap. These presenting issues can be a trap for us to focus on what’s right in front of us and forget about the long-term to move youth forward. All in all, this trap is a grand distraction to draw our focus away from the progress needing to be made.When I consider the fact that one in three individuals experiencing homelessness are under the age of 24 and that suicide rates for young adults have risen 76% between 2007 and 2017, the importance of keeping our “eyes on the prize” is absolutely critical.Not that it’s an easy task! The presenting issues often demand all of our attention and effort, and that’s sometimes a necessary temporary step. But it’s definitely not a long-term solution.So what’s the answer?It’s focusing on prevention. In the field of medicine, preventive care is key. And it’s the same thing in the field of behavioral health. Of course, a preventive approach can take many forms — supporting steps toward the achievement of educational or employment goals; providing positive role-modeling; developing effective coping skills; teaching positive social skills; and working on practical life skills like paying bills, creating and maintaining budgets, paying taxes, having healthy relationships, etc.Imagine if we can provide each of the youth we serve with a set of skills that includes the power of these preventive measures. Imagine if the thousands of youth we serve in any given year with the tools they need to be truly independent, functioning adults.Imagine if each of us, in our respective roles, can hold a long-term focus and stay away from the trap of distraction — that will make a difference in the lives of generations of North Carolina youth.Our weekly blog is written by CHA President and CEO Celeste Dominguez.