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California Law Spurs Reforms after Suicide Cluster

Suicide Prevention Required in CA Schools

“In an effort to address youth suicide, a new law in California requires schools to establish suicide prevention programs for students in grades 7 to 12. The state law mandates that schools have suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention procedures in place by the start of the next school year.”

Read the full article, including links to the law and model youth suicide prevention policy.


CAST Added to the Canadian Best Practice Portal

CAST Added to the Canadian Best Practice Portal!
The Public Health Agency of Canada reviewed the science-based prevention program Coping and Support Training (CAST) and subsequently added it to their prestigious Best Practice Portal. You can read their summary and independent review on their website.


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.”


RY leads to a turn-around in behavior

Dropout prevention program emphasizes emotional control for angry teens
Published in the Toronto Globe and Mail, May 21, 2013

Little things like rain on his walk to school, a teacher nagging him about homework or a classmate knocking a pencil off his desk used to be enough to set Ahmed Gulzar off. He would yell at his teacher, his classmates – anyone within earshot – throw a book across the room and storm out.

Ahmed rarely made it through the first 20 minutes of class without losing his temper and getting kicked out and sent to the office.

Just over a year ago, Ahmed, a student at R.H. King Academy in Toronto, was among the first Canadian students to participate in a U.S. drop-out prevention program, Reconnecting Youth (RY). The Canadian version of the program puts special emphasis on mood control and has been life-changing for kids like Ahmed, 16.

Click here to read the entire article…


Hitting the target: suicide prevention for at-risk youths

Published online in Prevention Action, October 31, 2012

On both sides of the Atlantic, suicide is one of the largest causes of death among teenagers. Two short programs that focus on at-risk students can offer some protection, according to a study from America’s west coast.

Over the last two decades, universal suicide prevention programs – often delivered to all students in a school – have increasingly been introduced. But concerns remain that young people most at risk are not getting the additional help they need.

Two targeted programs, called Counselors CARE (C-CARE) and Coping and Support Training (CAST), can help these teenagers, according to researchers…

Link to read the entire article…


Reconnecting Youth Program boosts teens

Seventeen-year-old Chris Malcolm is the first to admit he squandered a lot of his high school years because he just didn’t care.

“I was like, I don’t care about school, I don’t care if I’m here, it’s so boring I can’t deal with it,” said Malcolm, a senior at Summit High School in Frisco. “But now, I can tell myself the day’s gonna be fine, I’m fine, and I’m capable of doing school” …

He credits the turnaround in his life to one class, which he’s taking this year. It meets second period, three days a week.

Link to read the entire article…

Written by Rebecca Jones, October 30, 2012 | Published in


CAST lessons pay off for even the toughest kids

Sometimes it is hard to know when or if our efforts with at-risk youth are paying off. Every once in a while, an especially challenging group dynamic or ambivalent individual student has us “stumped” and wondering if it is working at all. Ann Tracey, a school counselor at a Seattle area school, was experiencing these kinds of doubts a few years ago, with a particular CAST group.

She wrote us a note, just last month, to share a silver lining that we all should read and take to heart. “One of my toughest CAST groups and CAST students has produced a school leader!” Ann wrote. “I noticed one of my former students, now in high school, at a district program actually doing conflict mediation with the students from my school. He was using CAST skills that he learned in group! He was such a typical “trouble maker” that I wasn’t sure he was getting anything out of CAST, but he is thriving. This was a student on the road to dropping out, back when he was in our program. Now he is a leader in this alternative program, and he will graduate with honors.”

This is a story we’ve heard before. Sometimes it is easy to allow yourself to believe that the CAST/RY lessons are really not getting through. But more often than not, students are taking notice. Tucking away the support, skills training, practice and encouragement for later. When they are ready. When they’ve had enough of the old patterns. When they are able to make a change.

Ann tells us, “I am a STRONG advocate in CAST for all!” We salute Ann Tracey and other CAST and RY Facilitators out there who may experience doubt, but persevere. For the sake of our kids. Every single one.


Reconnecting Youth alum “paying it forward”

BlackieSixteen-year-old Trayvon Alston is living proof of the difference the West Springfield High School’s Reconnecting Youth program can make in a young person’s life, much as it did for Lincoln Blackie.

Blackie, a 22-year-old alumnus of West Springfield High and a May graduate of Westfield State University with a degree in public administration and regional planning, says he faced the same challenges as a student which beleaguered Alston until Reconnecting Youth changed both their lives for the better. Blackie is now a candidate running for state representative in the 6th Hampden District.

Reconnecting Youth…is the same program for which Blackie was targeted and the one from which he benefited – so much so that when he heard of the great strides Alston made in his education from his involvement in Reconnecting Youth he wanted to “pay it forward” and do something for the teen to keep him on a successful path. Read the entire article…

Published in, August 22, 2012


Kansas SD expands RY Program to all high schools

BVSDHow RY was adopted into all high schools in a district.
In the summer of 2011, Blue Valley School District in Overland Park, KS, sent five fabulous and passionate staff members to our annual Seattle RY Facilitator Training. Blue Valley Academy Principal, Valerie Jennings, wrote us in February to say that the RY Program was going so well in their district that “we met with the high school principals who do not have RY … and all of them are wanting to offer RY in their buildings next year!”

That led to a July 2012 training hosted in Overland Park, just outside of Kansas City, for seven new RY Facilitators. By the end of the training week, the previously trained group of teachers, school psychologists and counselors was eagerly making plans with the new RY Facilitators to meet regularly for group consultation. Later in the summer, Jennings flew back to Seattle for an advanced RY Coordinator Training, for more instruction on how to support her growing team to teach RY with fidelity.

Jennings has been such a fan that she was invited to a meeting with Kansas City, KS Public Schools regarding best practices for their alternative education programs, and she spoke about the success her school district has experienced with the RY Program. Recently, the Overland Park RY Facilitators sent a collection of quotes from their RY students. These student testimonials speak volumes about the work their RY team is accomplishing!

“RY has helped me phenomenally. I’ve rarely missed class this semester. I can handle my stress. I make time for myself and me and my family are pretty close. I get along better with my dad. I make a lot better decisions.”

“It helped me calm down and take a step back to realize what’s really important in life. I’ve been doing so much better with grades, drug control, and my mood has changed dramatically.”

“It got me off of drugs and I probably wouldn’t have been able to graduate or move on to anything else with the amount of drugs I was doing. It’s also helped me with my mood management in a very considerable way.”

“(RY) helped me with a lot of personal problems and with … strategies to solve problems and handle my anger and stress … and how to figure out who my friends are, what caring for someone really means, and that a lot of people have it worse than me but they’re still going — so I can too.”


Students in Chaffee County, CO. sing RY’s praises

CrossroadsDecreased drug use and increased resilience are among several positive effects reported by both Chaffee County, Colorado school districts implementing Reconnecting Youth. Among the 30 high school students that completed the RY program last year, there was a 30% drop in both alcohol and marijuana use, along with statistically significant increases in resiliency and positive outlook.

Youth @ Crossroads delivers the RY Program through Family and Youth Initiatives, a division of Chaffee County’s Health and Human Services Department. Kayla Maddox, a trained RY Facilitator and the Youth @ Crossroads Coordinator, shared some of their RY students’ year-end testimonials with us, this summer.

“RY has helped me find healthy ways to improve my mood, and helped me open up and express
my feelings towards the right people.”

“I know that I do have to control my anger otherwise I could get in serious trouble. I’ve learned there are steps to take.”

“At the start of RY, my drug use control was…well let’s just say that I was using heavily.
Now I don’t use at all, like actually, I am proud of myself.”

“What helped me the most is the mini-Goals for RY. Identifying fun activities I could do that decrease my depression.”

“I learned to organize my day so I can meet my needs first, and then my wants.”

“Self esteem helps you accept criticism and turn it into self-improvement.”

“RY helped me learn to see what my triggers are and showed me that if I stay calm
most times the people I’m talking to will stay calm too.”

“I learned better ways to talk to my mom when I’m angry.”

CrossroadsIn Chaffee County, underage alcohol misdemeanor and drug delinquency filing rates are higher than Colorado’s rates and Chaffee’s poverty rates have remained higher than the state’s, including among school-aged youth.

Youth @ Crossroads seeks to reduce high risk behaviors in youth ages 13 – 18 by promoting positive decision-making and personal responsibility through education, community service, and ongoing year-round activities.


Giving discouraged students a nonjudgmental support system

Youth FirstIt’s spring and that means time for celebrations of all kinds: graduations, parties and the last day of school. For some, the journey through high school is exciting, challenging and transformative. For others, it is difficult.

Some see high school as a place where they don’t belong, while others see it as a place to get away from a chaotic and broken home life. It also can be where their problems coalesce and any hope for change is bleak. It’s these types of students who Youth First’s Reconnecting Youth program tries to help: to instill hope, dreams, goals, and meaning despite their various struggles in school and at home. Read the entire article…

Published in Evansville Courier & Press, May 21, 2012


RY and CAST listed in new SAMHSA Resource

ToolkitBoth RY and CAST are listed in Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools, a new resource released by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, earlier this year. Ours are the ONLY programs listed under Skills-Building Programs for Individuals at Risk of Suicide.

Developed through a contract with the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors in collaboration with Education Development Center, the Toolkit aims at reducing the risk of suicide among high school students by providing research-based guidelines and resources to assist schools, providers and others to identify teenagers at risk and take appropriate measures to provide help. The toolkit offers information on screening tools, warning signs and risk factors of suicide, as well as statistics and education materials that are easily adaptable to any high school setting. Available free for download now!


10 Years Strong – Because of RY!

An email “thank you letter” we received from a young woman who took RY in high school — ten years ago!

DosterI participated in the Reconnecting Youth Program … during the 2001-2002 school year. A decade later I still think often of this program and how it affected the course my life has taken since. I consider myself lucky to have been selected to participate in this program and wanted to tell others how it really did change my life. If an instructor or school is trying to decide if investing the time and money into a program like this is worth it, well I was worth it and so are the other students out there who need a little extra!

I was depressed and just going through the motions in life. I started skipping school and my grades dropped, causing tensions with my parents. I was … in counseling, and had even been hospitalized at one point because they feared I would try to commit suicide. RY got through to me, where all others had failed.

The year I participated in this program, I walked away with a 3.7 GPA. I believe having individualized attention from the instructor and a core group of peers to support me made a huge difference. The skills I learned are still in use a decade later. Social networking has given me the ability to connect with others from my program and so many have become happy successful adults. I can’t imagine what life would have been like for me if RY hadn’t played a part and I hope this program will still be going strong when I have children of my own.


NEW! Online Trainings Available

NEW! Administrator Tutorials — for the Reconnecting Youth (RY) and the Coping and Support Training (CAST) programs — are now online!

The Administrator Online Tutorials provide an engaging, interactive:

  • overview of the RY or CAST program;
  • guide to expanding and sustaining your existing program; and
  • checklist of ways to create community readiness for a prevention program.

Read more about the Administrator Tutorials in our training section.


TCOE — a leader in RY and CAST!

Want to know how a successful RY or CAST Program is run? Many of you have already heard our enthusiastic reports about the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE), in Visalia, CA. TCOE has been offering Reconnecting Youth and CAST in their middle and high schools, as well as after-school programs, boot camps and alternative school settings since 2001. They have enjoyed so much success, from years of hard work, collaboration, team-building and training, that we think of them as a model for our programs. TCOE has a video testimonial about RY up on our website (watch it now). Their Children of Promise Project (COPP) uses both the Coping and Support Training (CAST) and the Reconnecting Youth (RY) curricula to help middle and high school-aged youth improve academic achievement, decrease drug involvement, and improve mood management.

Here’s just one example of data, from their recent dissemination of CAST in a Probation Youth Facility. First round evaluations report:

• belief that alcohol and other drugs are bad for them
• self-reported ability to manage (i.e., reduce) their alcohol and other drug use and monitor their own progress in this area
• ability to manage their anger and control unhelpful or hurtful thoughts or ideas rose
• positive feelings about themselves
• feeling more capable and in control
• ability to make decisions
• positive connections to teachers
• feeling part of the school

• feelings of depression or sadness
• feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

When asked whether CAST helped them with mood management, school, and drug use control, 100% of the students say that it did (for each of the three areas). When the students were asked how much CAST helped them with mood management, 43% said it helped them “a lot” and 43% said it helped them “somewhat.” When they were asked how much CAST helped them with school, 71% of students said it helped them “a lot” and the remaining 29% said it helped them “somewhat.” When asked how much it helped them with drug use control, 43% said it helped them “a lot” and 43% said it helped them “somewhat.”

We’re proud of what TCOE has accomplished and we say, “Keep up the great work!”


RY Students make a difference

We heard of a touching story from Shelly West, Intervention Specialist and RY Leader at Huntington High School in Texas. Her RY students organized an “Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Alternative Activity.” Her class chose to work with the community who included fire victims in Bastrop, TX. West’s students gathered donations, separated and boxed clothes and even made posters with encouraging words for the affected families. Students worked outside of class time on this project. West told us, “Several of my students made the comment ‘This has really been fun! We are helping out families who lost everything, we are bonding ourselves, and we didn’t even have to be out drinking to have a good time.'” What a wonderful learning experience for these RY kids!


RY funded by a block grant in western Colorado

Five high schools in western Colorado added Reconnecting Youth to their course offerings thanks to a Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant grant from the Colorado Division of Behavioral Health. The program is run by Mpower, a non-profit that provides programs to young people.

Alec Raffin, the Executive Director of Mpower, recently emailed us their first annual program evaluation report, saying “Year one exceeded our expectations and we are very pleased with the outcomes our students have achieved thus far.”

The RY class is offered to students who have been identified as at-risk for school failure. The program serves as a behavioral Response to Intervention (RtI) for this indicated population of students.

The Mpower RY Program Evaluation Report states that “Program Research studies in Colorado and elsewhere in the US demonstrate that a disproportionate number of students who have adverse risk factors and inadequate protective factors, and are doing poorly in school or have a suicidal risk, show increased use of alcohol and other drugs as compared to others their age.”

The Momentum Program Evaluation Report from the first year, reflects positive impact on students at the end of the semester they were enrolled in the program, including:
• a statistically significant improvement in Grade Point Average (GPA);
• significant advances in accumulating credit toward graduation; and
• a decline in their alcohol and marijuana use.

The same RY students also reported:
• a decreased use of cigarettes and other tobacco products;
• an increased tendency to believe alcohol and cigarette use is harmful; and
• more inclination to work for an employer who did alcohol and other drug testing.

Congratulations to Mpower and your RY graduates! We are very encouraged by these initial findings, and are looking forward to continuing our work together.