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Training Student Assistance Program Teams

Pennsylvania has administered a statewide Student Assistance Program (SAP) across all the Commonwealth’s 500 school districts since 1985. SAP aims to develop and maintain mental health wellness and a safe and drug-free environment in schools and communities. It is designed to assist school personnel to identify misuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, as well as mental health concerns that may pose a barrier to a student’s success. Additionally, SAP responds to such issues and concerns through collaborative prevention, intervention, and post-intervention services.  

SAP is administered through The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Safe Schools Office, in partnership with the Division of Prevention and Intervention and the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The process intends to mobilize school resources to remove the barriers around learning. When solutions may be beyond the scope of the school, SAP is designed to assist parents and students to access appropriate services within the community.

Student assistance teams include specially trained school staff and community agency liaisons, whose work is based on state guidelines, professional standards, and policies and procedures adopted by the local board of directors. Professional training for team members must adhere to state guidelines, and is furnished only through trainers approved by the administering state agencies. The SS/HS initiative has led Pennsylvania to teach SAP team members and the state’s large cadre of Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports (PBIS) facilitators how to integrate SAP within Pennsylvania’s model of multi-tiered systems of supports. Certified SAP trainers and Pennsylvania PBIS Network state coordinators are currently mobilizing to roll out the updated training curriculum, as the state is on track to ensure that at least 75% of trainers will master the new curriculum by the start of the 2017-18 school year.

“We are PA Commonwealth approved Student Assistance Trainers who have been training school and other
professionals in SAP for more than 30 years. Our team of professional educators, clinicians, and preventionists bring
school and agency personnel high quality initial and advanced training and ongoing coaching that is designed
to help teams function effectively. Our goal is to help schools build sustainable systems for
addressing student learning barriers in the best way possible.”

— Addiction Medicine Services of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (

Pennsylvania’s longstanding Student Assistance Program is supported by the Pennsylvania Association of Student Assistance Professionals and the Pennsylvania network for Student Assistance Services. For more information, click here.

Behavioral Health/Mental Health
Connecting Schools and Communities
Evidence Based/Informed
Parent Skills Training
Substance Use Prevention