"The mission of SAS is to facilitate the process of prevention in order to create conditions that promote the well being of people within the school community. Emphasis is placed on creating a caring and supportive atmosphere, encouraging high expectations and fostering a sense of belonging. Students will be assisted by staff in identifying and mobilizing positive resources towards the achievement of self determined goals."
What is SAS? The Student Assistance Service was started in 1988 as a companion program to the very successful BOCES Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The SAS objective is to provide education, identification, early intervention, assessment and referral services for students at risk of developing alcohol, drug or other emotional problems. SAS utilizes professionally trained counselors to provide prevention and early intervention services to students grades K-12 depending on the needs of the component districts. Funded by a grant from the New York State Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and with the support of the Suffolk County Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, SAS is able to provide cost efficient and highly effective prevention programming.
The overarching philosophy that guides the program is the concept of resiliency, that is the ability to overcome adversity by strengthening protective factors in the lives of young people. The main service modalities utilized by SAS are educational/support groups designed to provide developmentally appropriate, competency based, solution-focused methods for dealing with basic life experiences and the normal crises inherent in growing up. Universal approaches are used (such as classroom presentations) to address prevention programming needs of all students in a building. The program is primarily geared towards working with students who come from homes where there is a history of substance abuse (selected prevention efforts) or who may just beginning to exhibit behavioral and/or academic problems (indicated prevention efforts) that could possibly lead to more severe problems. For students in need of more intensive intervention or outside help a referral to a qualified, screened professional is made through the use of a databank developed by a joint effort between the EAP and SAS.
SAS counselors run specialized groups developed for particular issues such as divorce/changing families, COSA (children of substance abuse), anger management, bereavement, academic underachieving, etc. as the need arises. Counselors follow a group outline that covers topics that emphasize prosocial bonding, self-efficacy, problem solving and goal setting. The skills that students develop as a result of the group experience help them to better deal with pressures that might be interfering in their lives and preventing them from devoting their full attention to academics. Currently there are 29 SAS counselors placed in 16 school districts and 5 BOCES sites.
The Student Assistance Service offers additional prevention and early intervention programs designed to address a wide variety of needs.
The Violence Prevention Program places full-time Substance Abuse & Violence prevention coordinators in schools. Currently 6 school districts are participating with a total of 9 coordinators. The role of the coordinators, initially funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is to assess school climate and suggest research based model programs that would positively impact student achievement, the environment and decrease the incidences of destructive student behavior. A primary function of the program is to complete a needs assessment using the Risk-Focused model of Hawkins and Catalano following the SDFS Principles of Effectiveness. Strengths and weaknesses are identified within the participating sites and thus provides the framework for setting goals and objectives that positively effect the school climate and therefore increase student learning. Specifically the role of the coordinators includes:
The violence prevention program also offers CAPS on Second Step training, Olweus Bullying Prevention Program training and survey, a Violence Prevention Specialist Shared Service, and various workshop topics.
- Completion of an Asset Profile
- Development of Needs Assessment Protocol
- Implementation of Research-based Prevention Programming
- Evaluation of Process
Eastern Suffolk BOCES is proud to offer Conflict Resolution and Mediation Services. Our services focus on the de-escalation of conflicts. It is our belief that when conflicts are mediated the need for serious disciplinary measures, are often averted. Our goal is to train student mediators to assist peers in effectively communicating and generating peaceful resolutions to their differences.
Our Peer mediation training teaches students, grades four through twelve to serve as neutral third party facilitators and mediate disputes among their peers. The peer to peer mediation process becomes self-empowering to both mediators as well as disputants. When students are permitted to generate their own solutions to personal conflict, they are more likely to abide by the mutual agreement.
Our Conflict Resolution Trainings and Workshops:
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Student Assistance Service has entered into an agreement with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to fulfill the school-based component of the countywide tobacco control program entitled, Learn to be...Tobacco Free. The purpose of the School Health Education Initiative is to assist Suffolk County school districts in implementing:
- teach students to view conflict as a natural part of life
- teach students to solve their own problems through perspective taking, critical thinking and negotiation skills
- reduce the time educators and administrators spend on disciplinary proceedings
- reduce the number of detentions and suspensions
- promote tolerance and intercultural understanding
- foster a school climate that is conducive to learning
All segments of the initiative, including materials, training and technical follow-up are provided at no charge to districts. Funding for the program comes from the county's portion of the money awarded as part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, which is intended to fund programs that support tobacco prevention and cessation.
- A comprehensive K-12 health curriculum designed to prevent the six risky behaviors as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The curriculum also meets or exceeds the National and New York State Standards for health.
- Smoking cessation and pre-cessation programs for youth in secondary settings.
- Effective school tobacco policies that encourage prevention and education in lieu of punitive action where smoking on campus occurs.
Reconnecting Youth (RY) is a semester-long school based prevention program that targets students in grades 9-12 who show signs of poor school achievement, potential for dropping out of school, and multiple problem behaviors such as substance abuse and poor social skills. During the school year 2002-2003 10 Suffolk high schools participated in RY. The major goals of the class are to increase school attendance and performance, to decrease any drug involvement, and to foster positive attitudes. Students keep track of their daily attendance in class as well as their grades. This helps identify patterns of difficulty that manifest themselves in the form of cutting particular classes or consistently poor test scores in certain subject areas.
The RY class explores the decisions youth-at-risk face and the consequences of the actions taken based on their decisions. Its uniqueness derives from several factors: it is a comprehensive and sustained intervention; it integrates small group work and life skills to enhance personal and societal protective factors. By addressing the challenges of young people and providing a better school experience, key risk and protective factors in their lives are positively altered. Many schools are able to offer RY for a half credit towards graduation requirements if implemented with fidelity. This is another no cost to district service provided by SAS.
Last but not least is the Crisis Response Team that was developed to assist SAS and EAP districts in handling and recovering from traumatic events such as the death of a student or faculty member, natural disaster, or act of violence. Professionals from the Suffolk County Critical Incidence Team have trained members of the SAS staff who have volunteered their time to participate in this effort.
Should a traumatic event occur, a member of the team will call either the district superintendent or building principal to offer assistance or they can contact the team directly themselves. The specific services available are:
- Review with staff the expected reactions to the event from students/staff
- Provide direct services to students and/or staff
- Able to inform students about what happened and facilitate discussions to help them express their feelings about the incident
- Provide resources, articles, etc. to staff related to dealing with the event
- Recommend appropriate memorials and or activities related to the event
- Coordinate a plan in conjunction with the district/building crisis team
- Assist with notification announcements to the community and with media statements
- Help facilitate faculty meetings dealing with the event
- Debrief the building crisis team
- Debrief the faculty and process their reactions/needs
- Designate and monitor a special area for students who need a place to process their reactions/feelings