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What is Student Assistance?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Student Assistance Program (SAP), which is administered by the PA Department of Education’s Division of School Options and Safety in partnership with the PA Department of Health’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, and the PA Department of Public Welfare’s Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, is designed to assist school personnel in identifying issues including alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, and mental health issues which pose a barrier to a student’s success. The primary goal of the Student Assistance Program (SAP) is to help students overcome these barriers in order that they may achieve, remain in school, and advance. While Student Assistance Programs exist in other areas of the country, the structure and operation of the program in Pennsylvania is a unique expression of an integrated model serving the needs of Pennsylvania families and their students.

SAP is a systemic process using techniques to mobilize school resources to remove barriers to learning. The core of the program is a professionally trained team, including school staff and liaisons from community alcohol and drug and mental health agencies. SAP team members are trained to identify problems, determine whether or not the presenting problem lies within the responsibility of the school and to make recommendations to assist the student and the parent. When the problem lies beyond the scope of the school, the SAP team will assist the parent and student so they may access services within the community. The student assistance team members do not diagnose, treat or refer to treatment; but they may refer for a screening or an assessment for treatment.



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