At-risk youth in county given a second chance

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When the Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities asked for an early intervention program for teens, Anne King delivered.

“When the coalition started, it was like, ‘Where can we focus our efforts?’” King said.

In time, the coalition discovered Rockwood School District’s Second Chance program in Eureka, Mo., that served as an early intervention program for teens caught abusing drugs or alcohol on school property.

King, who serves as the Human Support Services chief program officer,  then worked with Amy Weiland, a certified reciprocal substance abuse counselor of The Crossroads Program in St. Louis, to develop the HSS program also known as Second Chance. That program took off in 2015 as a six-week series.

“We wanted to do something similar here because the success rate is so high,” she said.
Weiland has more than 21 years of experience working with youth and their families and also led the Second Chance program at Rockwood School District.

King said Second Chance serves as an early intervention program, helping kids whose behavior suggests they could develop a substance abuse problem down the road.

“This is more of a prevention tool before things get really bad,” she said.

Some examples of when a teen could be referred to Second Chance include them being in trouble with law enforcement or finding them in possession of drug paraphernalia.

“I can be sitting with my kid and say, ‘Oh, I think there’s a problem, we should go,’” King said, adding that a parent’s referral makes the program mandatory to attend.

Another aspect of the program involves strengthening relationships between adolescents and parents. According to King, teens bringing their parents along to the program is mandatory.

“Being able to put the teens and parents in an environment together where they can talk and have a different perspective on each other and respect the different issues they both face is quite unique,” she said.

Some of the topics covered in the series include stress, interaction between parents and kids, negative thinking and more. HSS has offered the series a total of three times and has received great feedback thus far, King said.

The program is open to Waterloo, Columbia and Valmeyer schools, but King said only Waterloo High School has worked with HSS to put its students through Second Chance.

Waterloo school superintendent Brian Charron said bringing students into the program presents a challenge since the focus is limited to early intervention. But, the district supports the program as a tool for students and parents struggling to discuss drugs and alcohol.

“I encourage parents who are struggling with these conversations with their teens, or otherwise are detecting or need help detecting the warning signs of use and/or abuse, to contact Human Support Services and consider participating in this program as a family,” Charron said.

Valmeyer school superintendent Eric Frankford said he does not recall the high school receiving information on the program.

“Our guidance department is aware of the Second Chance program and is happy to pass along information to our parents and students,” Columbia school superintendent Dr. Gina Segobiano said.

A new student discipline law that went into effect at the beginning of the school year establishes restrictions on how and when schools can administer discipline for drug-related offenses. With the new law, schools in Monroe County can no longer make the Second Chance program mandatory for at-risk students.

Kelton Davis, Monroe-Randolph Regional Office of Education superintendent, told the Republic-Times how schools can offer the program to students under the new law. Davis said schools can create such incentives as cutting a student’s suspension in half if they complete the program.

“This is another tool of support that our schools and communities can use,” he said.

In addition, King said law enforcement can refer someone to Second Chance. Columbia Police Chief Jerry Paul said recommending a juvenile for the program would come from a joint deliberation between the arresting officer and juvenile officer on the case.

However a teen is referred into Second Chance, King said Weiland shows a great amount of skill in navigating the discussion and bringing about change in a teen’s life.

“It really is up to the skill of the facilitator,” she said.

King is working on putting together the next Second Chance series but said she did not have a date as of press time.

For more information on Second Chance, contact Human Support Services at 939-4444.

“These kids and parents are able to talk to each other in a meaningful way that they weren’t able to before about drugs and stress and communicating with each other,” she said. You have things like, ‘I forgot that my kid was actually a real person with feelings.’”

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