Student Assistance Services News

March 2022

Student Assistance Specialists (SASs) have expertise in the mental health and substance use field. They have Master’s degrees in Social Work or Counseling, and most are licensed by the Virginia Department of Health Professions as Clinical Social Workers, Professional Counselors or Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioners. As members of the Unified Mental Health Team, Student Assistance Specialists support LCPS initiatives that promote student connectedness, enhance student resilience and educate about mental health and substance use issues. We provide educational presentations for students and parents, restorative practices, individualized and group support, referral services, coordination with providers, staff development and consultation with parents and staff.

To find your school's SAS assignment, visit our website.

Finding the right treatment services: A Quickstart Guide

If you have recently sought mental health or substance use treatment services for yourself or your child, you likely faced wait lists, outright lack of availability and/or incompatibility with insurance. Full caseloads and high costs of behavioral healthcare can make finding the right provider challenging. This difficulty accessing services is a nationwide issue. According to U.S. News & World Report, "About 37% of the U.S. population, or 122 million Americans, were living in areas experiencing mental health professional shortages as of March 31 [2021]." At 22.66%, Virginia rates better than average, but this means that nearly 1 in 4 people in our state are facing healthcare accessibility issues. View the full article here.

As Unified Mental Health Team members, we support families in pursuing counseling for their teens and help them navigate the system of behavioral healthcare. We have put together the below Quick-start Guide to getting the care you and your family need and deserve:

Consider the level of care you need. Is your child experiencing an acute crisis such as thoughts of self-harm or suicide? Are they demonstrating a lack of safety through risky behavior such as substance use? These are important considerations to share with any potential providers so you can identify if a higher level of care including intensive outpatient treatment, day treatment, partial hospitalization or inpatient treatment might be more appropriate. If your child is experiencing acute crisis and expressing thoughts of suicide, contact Loudoun County Mental Health Emergency Services at 703-777-0320 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Consider your method of payment. If you are comfortable paying out-of-pocket for counseling, you will be able to cast a wide net for possible treatment providers. Visit the LCPS Mental Health Services page here for a list of mental health providers in the area. All providers will accept private pay but not all will accept insurance or work with yours in particular. Most families will be looking to utilize insurance to help cover the costs of these services and this is the first step in narrowing your options. Call your insurance company for a list of in-network providers as a starting point. Most out-of-network or strictly private pay providers will give you a detailed receipt which you can submit to your insurance for reimbursement of a portion of your cost. If you are uninsured, you may be eligible for services on a sliding scale through Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Developmental Services. They can be reached at 703-771-5155 Monday- Friday, 9:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.

Consider telehealth services. The pandemic led to a dramatic shift in the way behavioral healthcare is administered. Many therapists are now offering telehealth appointments, making care much more accessible. Many local counseling clinics offer teletherapy, and telehealth platforms such as those found in this article are entirely geared toward this service. Two meta-analytic studies conducted in the past 6 years have demonstrated that telecounseling sessions reveal similar results and overall client satisfaction as in-person sessions, supporting the likelihood that these services are here to stay.

Appointments only available during school hours? Mental health and well-being is essential to academic readiness. If you are only able to secure an appointment for your child during school hours, school staff will work with you and your child to ensure that they are able to receive the care they need while staying caught up with coursework. Reach out to your child's school counselor to discuss a plan for your student.

Treat the first appointment like an interview. Your provider will be asking questions to inform their recommendations and treatment planning, but this is an opportunity for you to make sure it is a best fit as well. Ask your provider about their education, experience and philosophy treating certain issues and working with certain populations. Mental health providers are not one-size-fits all and establishing a trusting relationship is key.

Is your child/teen resistant? It is perfectly understandable that your child/teen might be scared and/or resistant about putting their thoughts, feelings and behaviors on display with a stranger regardless of their credentials. A common misconception about counseling services for teens is that they will only benefit if they are themselves motivated to attend. Research has consistently shown this to be a myth. Many therapists practicing evidence-based treatment are trained in Motivational Interviewing techniques which help increase engagement in therapy and motivation for change. As your child develops a relationship with their therapist you are likely to see a shift in their willingness to attend and engagement in treatment. If your child is resistant to therapy and you know their mental well-being is suffering, you can instill external motivation by attaching their attendance in treatment with maintaining privileges or even consequences for non-attendance.

Remember that you do not have to do this alone. Unified Mental Health Team staff at your child's school are available and ready to support you in finding the most appropriate care to meet your family's needs. We are here to help!

Education and Support Resources

These resources are not maintained or endorsed by Loudoun County Public Schools. LCPS is providing them as a helpful resource but is not responsible for their content.

Increase Your Knowledge - Parent/Student Substance Use information - Alcohol Information - Drug Information - Tobacco and E-Cig Information - Easy-to-read drug facts - Tobacco and Nicotine education, advocacy and cessation resources - COVID-19 & Substance Use—Stanford study on vaping increasing COVID-19 risk - DEA website - drug-specific information, pill identifiers, social media trends— Addiction Policy Forum website—provides educational videos and articles - Education and tips for parents on talking to their children about substance use

Support for you as a Loved One - Resource for families - Online Support Community for parents/caregivers - Support for family members of someone struggling with addiction—Zoom meetings—Support for children of parents struggling with addiction—Zoom meetings - Find online Alateen meetings—Addiction Policy Forum website for finding and navigating the treatment experience

Find a Treatment Provider - SAMHSA treatment locator

1-800-662-HELP (4357) TTY: 1-800-487-4889 - SAMSHA National Helpline - Online Recovery Community: Self-Management and Recovery Training Recovery community based on Buddhist Principles, virtual meetings available—Virtual Narcotics Anonymous meetings - Virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings - LCPS listing of community treatment providers

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