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Help is at Hand

The Canby, Oregon RY Program makes inroads with student drug and alcohol use
by Peggy Savage, Canby Herald

When high school senior Scott Munoz first arrived at Canby High School a few years ago, he had some serious problems. But thanks to help from a dedicated counselor at the school and the school’s intervention-prevention program, Munoz turned his life around.

Thursday, Munoz, in company with CHS intervention-prevention specialist Trevor Lockwood, told his story to the Canby School Board. Munoz said he came to Canby as a transfer from Tigard High School.

“I was not making good choices there, but I was not getting in trouble,” Munoz said. “Then I came to Canby High and I had a wake-up call.”

Among other issues, Munoz said he had an attendance problem at school. Things would soon change.

“And then Mr. Lockwood called me in to his office,” he said.

The director of the CHS School Based Health Center, Lockwood got Munoz into a special class he teaches at the school called “Reconnecting Youth.” Reconnecting Youth is a science-based intervention-prevention program for reducing high school dropouts, drug involvement, violence, depression and suicide risk behaviors.

The goal is to increase school achievement, decrease drug involvement and increase mood management skills for students with drug, alcohol or mental health issues.

“But we can’t make or change students’ decisions,” Lockwood said. “Students are able to buy or possess drugs on campus. They are making those choices. But the school resource officer is always out and about. We are watching and catching it.”

Lockwood said when a student gets into trouble at the school, he meets with the student and asks him or her to take his class.

“I work in decision-making, self-esteem enhancement, personal control and interpersonal communication,” he said. “The class is a science-based intervention prevention program.”

Munoz said one of the most important things he took from “Mr. Lockwood’s class” is that anyone can achieve anything if they put their mind to it.

“One of the biggest lessons I learned was that I had too much free time, which can mean trouble,” he said. “But after Mr. Lockwood’s class, I started filling my schedule with sports, reading and writing. I joined clubs.”

“We gave him some concepts to make better choices,” Lockwood said. “We encouraged him to focus on school and achievement.”

Munoz is just one of the intervention-prevention program’s success stories, said Principal Pat Johnson.

“The thing about this particular curriculum is that students who go through the class can say the same thing Scott did,” Johnson said. “They leave here in a better place and are able to deal with their issues.”

The intervention-prevention program is tied to the school’s health center, so as director, Lockwood is the hub of the school’s mental health and drug and alcohol prevention programs, Johnson said.

“That has put him in the forefront,” he said. “Mr. Lockwood works with a small faction of students in high school, but it is significant. These kids are in trouble. These kids are in crisis.”

About 2 percent of Canby High School students have a drug problem, Johnson said.

“There is a very small population of kids who are drug impacted at the high school,” he said. “The ones we know of, we are working with. The ones we don’t know about, we learn about when they are in crisis.”

Johnson said teachers and counselors try to monitor every student’s behavior at the high school. If a CHS staff member is concerned about a student’s behavior or a change in behavior, the school has a process for checking to see what the problem might be.

“We ask questions and, if necessary, we can talk with their parents about the student’s change in behavior,” he said. “Mr. Lockwood is the final life preserver for our students who are impacted by drugs.”

Lockwood, a licensed clinical social worker, came to Canby High School nearly two years ago to run the intervention-prevention program and the health center.

In a presentation to the school board Thursday, he showed how, through the program, he is able to find and help kids who are in trouble with drugs and alcohol at the school. Teachers and coaches refer students who are having problems with drugs or alcohol.

“In just about any school across America, kids can find drugs,” Lockwood said. “Kids who are seeking drugs can find them. But we are doing our best to intervene, whether that’s intervening with help and treatment or on a level of consequences.”

The consequences for using drugs or alcohol at Canby High School are serious. Students and athletes are prohibited from using or selling drugs on or off campus at any time. Students who find themselves in the presence of others using are expected to leave the premises where such illegal activities are occurring.

When students get caught, they are put on a prevention-expulsion contract for up to three years. The student is called into Lockwood’s office once a month to see how things are going, and must go through assessment for alcohol and drugs in the program.

For athletes, the rules are even more strict. Under the school’s “Activities Code of Conduct,” a first offense for drug or alcohol abuse for an athlete means suspension from his or her sport for a five-week period or for three weeks if they meet with the intervention specialist and follow through on Lockwood’s recommendations.

With a second offense, the student is prohibited from any athletics or activities for one calendar year. If a school athlete has a third offense, that means permanent suspension from Canby High school extracurricular and activity programs.

Lockwood said confidentiality is carefully observed for students in the program.

“For students on contract, what we talk about in our group stays in our group. But if you under the influence, if a pipe falls out of your bag when you are on contract, then you lose confidentiality. When that happens, or if a student is not doing well, Lockwood calls them into his office and helps get them back on track.

“Do they fess up? Mostly, no,” he said. “Some are in complete denial. But it is normal adolescent development to try flapping their wings and see what happens. We need to be informed in order to stop what happens.”

Lockwood said ultimately, it is the responsibility of the school’s resource officer and campus security officer to keep an eye out for students using drugs.

“Their role is finding and being on top of these things so that we don’t have drug incidents here,” he said. “But if someone is caught, then they are offered help and assistance, and that’s where I come in.”