Rose Hill, Massena Central partnering with goal of safe, drug-free schools
Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 6:37 am

MASSENA—Counselors begin work Feb. 5 as Rose Hill Adolescent Chemical Dependency Program and Massena Central School partner to help the district ensure safe and drug-free schools.

The ultimate goal is helping Massena students be more successful.

The school district’s Safe and Drug Free Schools Committee -- which includes residents, board of education members, administrators, nursing staff and guidance counselors – has recognized that helping students with possible drug and alcohol problems would be a great step forward, according to a news release from the district.

Some students do not have insurance and, oftentimes, families don’t know where to find services in the community. Under this new agreement, Rose Hill, doing business as Can Am Youth Services, will provide free substance abuse evaluations and treatment referrals for any student or parent that is seeking help for a child in the district.

Starting Tuesday, Feb. 5, Jen Barron, a certified alcohol and substance abuse counselor (CASAC), will be at Massena High School every Tuesday to provide evaluation services and subsequent referrals for families if students need further treatment.

If a student discloses an abuse problem to school staff, the school may, with parental consent, refer the student to Barron.

Parents wishing to get help for their children without disclosing the request to the school may contact her directly.

Barron will have an office in the high school and may be reached directly at 764-3700 ext. 3188.

The partnership addresses three concerns expressed by the Safe and Drug Free Schools Committee:

• Students who need to get into treatment: How are they to be evaluated and referred, with some certainty, to the services that they need?

• Students need more education and prevention than they have ever had before.

• Students need some type of aftercare when coming out of treatment. Normally the recommendation is to change surroundings, but they will come back to the same environment with the same challenges and struggles. What kind of support can better help them come back to stay clean and sober?

Barron will not only provide free evaluations, but will help students and families find inpatient and outpatient help. She also plans to work with students who have come out of treatment, to help them transition back to school.

The school anticipates that addressing substance abuse problems will help those students refocus on schooling and healthy relationships. With improved health and more positive attitudes, students’ grades will likely improve.

Also starting in February, Rose Hill Clinician Laurel Jay will begin leading the “Amazing Alternatives” program for J.W. Leary Junior High School seventh graders. The program provides drug and alcohol education and guides students in positive decision making.

“Sixth graders have the DARE program and eighth graders have Health class – our seventh graders have no mechanism in place for any substance abuse education at all and Ms. Jay will help bridge that gap,” said Guidance Counselor Nicole LaPage.

The seventh graders will pick two students in each class to lead group discussions, class games, problem solving and role-playing exercises. The goal will be for students to learn ways to resist the use of alcohol and to encourage each other to find alcohol-free alternatives.

The relationship with Rose Hill was the brainchild of the Safe and Drug Free Schools Committee. When bureaucracy threatened to derail the plan, High School Assistant Principal Rick Norris offered to help. Mr. Norris and Ms. LaPage met with Tina Buckley of Rose Hill in October to work out the details. Mr. Norris focused on getting district approval.

“This was a team effort. The Safe and Drug Free Schools Committee, Nichole LaPage, Tina Buckley from Rose Hill, Superintendent Clough and I each played a role in getting it established. Working together, we put something in place so children can get the help necessary to make thing better for themselves,” said Norris.