Even before the pandemic, demand for mental health and substance use services was increasing, especially for our nation’s young people. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the situation more challenging, subjecting many young Americans to social isolation, loss of routines, and traumatic grief. Additionally, in some states, a student cannot qualify for the Emotional Disturbance category of special education if drug abuse is the primary cause of emotional or behavioral problems. Students with disabilities are at higher risk of substance misuse. It is important that preventionists have the appropriate knowledge and skills to include students with emotional or behavioral problems when delivering prevention services in schools.
During part two of this two-part series, we will discuss inclusive strategies that schools, parents, youth, and preventionists can use when delivering substance misuse prevention services for students with disabilities in a system where they have been overlooked or written off.
Chuck Lester serves as Community Based Prevention Services Grants Manager for Oklahoma State University’s Community Wellness Programs. In this capacity, he works with local stakeholders to reduce the consequences of substance abuse across the region through the use of evidence-based, environmental strategies. Previously Chuck served as the Region's Strategic Prevention Framework coordinator. Much of this work focused on reducing underage drinking in Payne County. As the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Coordinator, he was responsible for recruiting, training and sustaining SWAT groups at local schools. These student groups sought to complete anti-tobacco advocacy campaigns such as getting their school to pass 24/7 tobacco-free policies. For the last 11 years, he has coordinated various grants that seek to solve local substance use and abuse problems through the use of the Strategic Prevention Framework model by empowering youth.