Student Assistance Programs: Are They Effective and is There a Need for Them?

Francis M. Williams, Northeastern University

ABSTRACT
This paper explores the efficacy of Student Assistance Programs (SAP) to decrease delinquent behaviors among at-risk adolescents. Schools deal primarily with adolescents and their families and have historically initiated a vareity of programs in an attempt to combat substance abuse. These initial programs were generally preventative in nature and staffed by a variety of professionals and non-professionals but have since developed to handle other mental health issues.

Statistics show that twenty-two percent of adolescents will suffer from some form of mental illness. Overall twenty-five percent of adolescents will engage in serious health-threatening behavior. Consequently many adolescents who suffer from mental health disorders become involved in the juvenile justice system. Because the juvenile justice system cannot provide for the many needs of mentally ill offenders they are either passed around from system to system or never receive services at all.

Prevention and treatment of mental health disorders appears to be a key component for reducing delinquent behavior. Research indicates that school-based mental health services are utilized more frequently by adolescents. This paper focuses on 1) the different types of services offered by SAP's, 2) the effectivness of existent programs and, 3) whether social programs even belong in the schools.

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Updated 05/20/2006