THE HUB - Feature Article

  • STAR Program Offers Safe Space for Students Seeking Help with Substance Use Issues

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 3/14/2019

    Students who are seeking help with substance use issues now have another place to turn, thanks to the latest partnership between the Anne Arundel County Public Schools and the Anne Arundel County Department of Health.

    The STAR (Screening Teens to Access Recovery) Program allows school nurses to utilize technology to connect high school students in a tele-session with a licensed therapist from the Department of Health. Sessions will take place through a secure portal to ensure privacy.

    “We all have a stake in ensuring the wellness of our students,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said. “This collaboration between the school system and the Department of Health is critical to help students that have a problem with substance use get the help they need when they need it.”

    Said schools Superintendent Dr. George Arlotto: “This is another proactive step our incredible partners at the Department of Health are taking to help us address wellness issues with all of our students. I believe the ability of students to access assistance from a friendly face in the school health room will encourage more students to seek help when they need it.”

    Last school year, 327 students who were suspected to be under the influence of some substance were seen in county school health rooms. National statistics also show that one in 10 adolescents with a substance use disorder receives no treatment.

    “STAR is modeled after the County’s Safe Stations Program because of its convenient and welcoming accessibility,” said Acting Anne Arundel County Health Officer Billie Penley. “Whereas any county resident seeking substance treatment can walk into any fire station or police station 24/7, any high school student can arrange to go to the school health room at any time during the school day for help. Both programs offer nonjudgmental stigma-free environments.”

    Students who seek help in the health room will be screened via tele-session by a therapist. Based on screening results, the therapist will work with the student to explore available treatment options and decide the next steps. The school nurse and the therapist will encourage students to include their parents/guardians, caregiver or another trusted adult in the process.

    School staff can also refer students who express a drug or alcohol concern to the school nurse to access the program.

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