SAPS Newsletter

Spring Edition

Substance Abuse Prevention Specialists (SAPS) Introduction

Each school pyramid has a Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist (SAPS) assigned to provide substance abuse prevention, education, and intervention services. Substance Abuse Prevention Specialists are part of the FCPS Office of Student Safety and Wellness.

Key roles of A Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist:

  • Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug education for students, parents, and the Fairfax County Community
  • Intervention services upon violation of the Student Rights and Responsibilities or suspected substance abuse involvement
  • Assessing a student’s level of substance use and, if appropriate, making referrals to Fairfax Community Service Board for additional services
  • Group and individual prevention services for students, staff, parents, and the Fairfax County community
  • Most importantly, building positive relationships with students to provide support and encouragement!
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Parent Tips: How Can You Help Your Student?

The end of the school year and summer are both right around the corner. This means end-of-year celebrations, graduation parties, summer BBQs, and a lot of time either spent at home or with friends. This could also mean opportunities for your student to use and misuse substances. You may be wondering what can you do to help prevent your student from substance misuse. Here are a few tips:

  • Lock up prescriptions, other commonly abused substances, & alcohol

    • Contact your SAPS for a free medication lock box for safe storage of medications

    • Monitor quantities of medications and alcohol in your household

  • Discard unused and expired prescriptions

    • Go here to find medication drop box locations near you

  • Parental supervision

    • Who, What, Where

    • Know who their friends are

    • Know what they are doing

    • Know where your students are

  • Talk to your student about substances & misuse

    • Having open, honest conversations is one of the most powerful ways to connect with your students and help them develop into healthy adults.

    • Don’t be afraid to have these conversations with your students.

    • Set clear expectations and ground rules with your student regarding substance use.

  • Be a positive role model for your students

    • As a parent, you are the biggest influence in your student’s life.

    • Be thoughtful about what your student hears you say or sees you do.

  • Get students involved with sports/activities/clubs

    • Help your students find safe and positive ways to connect to other students and adults in their community.

Contact your SAPS for more prevention tips or questions about communicating with your student about substance use.

Binge Drinking

Last month was Alcohol Awareness Month, but we want to discuss alcohol this month as we are moving closer to graduation and celebrations, summertime, and college. Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States and is the most abused drug among teens. Many students do not even realize that alcohol is a drug, which may be due to the socially acceptable nature of its use.

Binge drinking is one of the most dangerous drinking behaviors that many adolescents engage in. Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as consuming 5 (men)/ 4 (women) or more drinks in a two-hour period. Binge drinking causes the blood alcohol concentration in a person’s blood to rise quickly and to very dangerous levels leading to blackouts, loss of coordination and body functions, and even death. Binge drinking is most prevalent among 18-34-year-olds according to the NIAAA. Nationally, about 14 percent of high school students binge drink and of college students who drink, 1 in 3 engages in binge drinking.

Before the celebrating starts and before your student heads to college, please have a conversation with them about the dangers of binge drinking. You can contact your SAPS for resources, but here are a few to help get the conversation going. One is a documentary of a student who died from alcohol poisoning at West Virginia University, another is a video that illustrates addiction, and the other is for the NIAAA and NIH which has a vast amount of information about alcohol and effects on student health. For more information contact the SAPS at your child’s school.


Addiction Video:


Rethinking Drinking:

Youth Substance Use Article

by: Shreya Chandran, Chantilly High School, Class of 2022

You enter the bathroom with a pep in your step, looking forward to the couple-minute escape from class. While you open a stall and sit down, a sweet yet unfamiliar scent wafts through the gaps from the handicap stall. Glancing down, you notice multiple people pacing around. Confused, yet curious, you try to ignore the situation and continue with your business. Just as you walk to the sinks to wash your hands, the students from the stall exit as well, heading towards the hallway. Identifying a familiar face among the group, a kind and studious tablemate, you smile hello. Recognizing you, she grins back and nonchalantly holds out something that looks like a USB, asking “Want to try?”

Most high school and middle school students have encountered a similar, if not the same, situation in school. While some students shun or politely decline the offer, others’ curiosity or impulses lead them to indulge. As a peer, friend, and sibling, I could only hope that students would make the right decision. But, more often than not students start to experiment with substances recreationally, which eventually turns into a habit, and unfortunately results in addiction. In Fairfax County itself, 10,681 students (33.7%) reported using alcohol and 8,062 students (25.4%) reported vaping in their lifetime (2019 Fairfax County Youth Survey). How can we let these unhealthy behaviors taint the potential of incredible students? Simply put, we can't. We can’t allow substances to stand in the way of students and their future.

The root cause of youth substance use starts with misinformation and unawareness. Most people don’t realize just how popular drug use has become in schools and are misled about the risks drug use poses to kids’ mental and physical health. Also, youth hesitate to reach out to get help for both themselves and others in fear of disappointment, damaging relationships, and judgment. For my Girl Scouts Gold Award project, with assistance from FCPS Substance Abuse Prevention Specialists and local experts, I developed a website to provide proper information, created a video to familiarize available resources, and hosted virtual sessions for trusted adults in the community to openly discuss how to approach the issue of youth substance use positively and progressively. Through these efforts, I was able to reach more than 350 people.

During this experience, I have grown tremendously—not just as a leader, but also as a member of my community. Sure, I have improved my skills in decision making, communication, and time management, but more importantly, I now know how to be a welcoming and supportive peer, friend, and sibling. If you could take away only one thing from my journey, it should be the acknowledgment that in the world of substance use and addiction, only one thing is certain: it will never stop changing. As old drugs fade away, new generations of products continue to emerge. As a community, we must prioritize creating an environment in which youth are comfortable having difficult conversations and reaching out for help so their mental and physical health is not jeopardized.


Website link:

National Prevention Week 2021:

Drug Take Back Day

On Saturday, April 24, 2021, Fairfax County Public Schools Student Safety and Wellness Office, Substance Abuse Prevention Specialists (SAPS) had their boots on the ground, teaming up with Fairfax Prevention Coalition, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Drug Take Back (DTB) day. Through this collaboration and experience, in 5 of the 6 areas of Fairfax County hosting DTB day, SAPS were able to use the opportunity to meet and connect with residents. At the West Springfield location, SAPS had the opportunity to work alongside Miss America (Camille Schrier), Acting Director of the DEA (D. Christopher Evans), and Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia (Raj Parekh.) During the event, SAPS took advantage of the chance to further educate community members on the substance-related programs and efforts taking place during a pandemic within their respective communities and schools. Residents from the community frequently verbalized their appreciation for having the opportunity to appropriately discard their expired or unused medications and to receive more information about what is being offered in Fairfax County related to substance prevention. Collectively, over 1 ton (2,038 lbs) of unused or expired medications were collected.

More information about the Drug Take Back program can be found here. Click here to see how many pounds each station collected.

Comparing 2020 and 2019 substance abuse non fatal and fatal overdose rates in Fairfax County and all of Virginia

Breakdown of the Age Groups that Went to the Emergency Room in 2020: Ages 0-17 (blue) showed the lowest number of ER visits, significant dip between March and April after the lockdown began.

Ages 18-26 (orange), uptick of ER visits in October.

Ages 26-25 (grey), ER visits increased after lockdown.

SAPS Presentations

Past Presentations

FCPS 2021 Special Education Conference Presentations from SAPS Team Members

The Teenage Brain, Drug Trends, and Parent Tips: A Three-Part Parent Series

  • Session 1: The Teenage Brain and Building Connections
  • Session 2: Drugs and the Teenage Brain
  • Session 3: Drug Trends in Teens: Identifying Common Household Substances and Drug Culture

Useful Resources

Office of Student Safety and Wellness:

Fairfax County Public Schools: Alcohol and Other Drugs:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

Crisis Link 24-Hour Suicide Hotline:

24-Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline: 703-360-7273

Second Story Teen Crisis Hotline: 1-800-SAY-TEEN (729-8336)

Fairfax County 24-Hour Emergency Services: 703-573-5679, TTY 711

Alcoholics Anonymous:

This is Quitting:

SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator:

Inova Emergency: 703-289-7560 or go to your nearest Hospital Emergency Room