Educators Learn How to Address Co-Occurring Disorders in Students



May 09, 2018

About 60 to 75 percent of teens with a substance use disorder also suffer from a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or attention deficit disorder. Figuring out which came first -- the mental health issue or the substance use -- can be difficult as can helping students with co-occurring disorders.

That’s why educators from across the region gathered at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES Wednesday to share best practices and learn about resources to address co-occurring disorders.
 
The planning forum, sponsored by the Guidance and Child Study Center at BOCES, featured Stephanie Marquesano, founder of the Harris Project, a not-for-profit agency that advocates for integrated treatment, and Michael Orth, commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health, which is responsible for coordinating services for individuals and families with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders.

“We’re on the right track,” said Neil Boyle, coordinator of the Guidance and Child Study Center pointing to a long list of programs and approaches being used in area school districts. “Now we have to figure out how we are going to measure whether what you are doing is working.”

Participants talked about a wide variety of initiatives including drug awareness programs, anti-bullying efforts, and support for LGBTQ teens as well as committees that review at-risk students and provide support before serious problems develop. Many school districts have invested in training for teachers on such things as dialectical behavior therapy, suicide prevention, youth mental health first aid and bias prevention.

A number of districts have invited Marquesano to present on CODA, co-occurring disorders awareness, a student-driven initiative to empower youth to talk about mental health and substance abuse. Marquesano cited successful student-run CODA clubs in New Rochelle High School and Fox Meadow Middle/High School in Yorktown.
 
Participants also learned about resources in the community such as the Guidance Center of Westchester, which provides substance use and mental health treatment for students ages 12 to 21; and Student Assistance Services, a Westchester substance use prevention agency serving schools and communities.

PHOTO CAPTION: From left, Neil Boyle, coordinator of the Guidance and Child Study Center at PNW BOCES; Stephanie Marquesano, founder of the Harris Project, which advocates for integrated treatment; Ellen Morehouse, executive director of Student Assistance Services, a Westchester substance abuse agency; Camille Banks-Lee, director of the Guidance Center of Westchester; Christa Latteri, deputy director of Integrated Clinical Services, the Guidance Center of Westchester; Michael Orth, commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health.