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York to create group counseling room to offer substance abuse supports

York Community High School in Elmhurst
York Community High School in Elmhurst

ELMHURST – A plan is underway to further support students at York Community High School, which is partnering with Rosecrance and the Rotary Club of Elmhurst to create a space where students can receive a variety of free, group-based counseling services, including substance use prevention.

Melissa Moore, an assistant principal at York, said the Rotary Club approached York in fall 2016 about partnering to target heroin use in the area.

They talked about a few different ideas, and Moore came back with a proposal this spring for a group counseling room that would address early detection and intervention with substance use and the expansion of support for students with social and emotional needs, which might help students avoid choosing to cope with problems with unhealthy mechanisms such as substance use, Moore said.

Services also might include staff and peers helping students with managing the expectations of being a high school student, managing their time, developing organizational skills and managing health challenges.

"Really what we want to do is provide more preventative efforts toward a larger number of students, and so we talked about creating a dedicated space to meeting all of these students' needs in a group setting," Moore said.

The group room will be a dedicated space for the group counseling services York social workers previously held in spaces such as conference rooms or their offices, she said.

The room will include couches, lamps, tables, student artwork and pillows that will make it a "calm, soothing space for students to be able to access," Moore said.

She said about 10 students would be able to use the room at once comfortably, and it will be available throughout the school day.

The Rotary Club provided $8,000 for the room and Rosecrance partnership after learning about drug abuse among high school students and young adults, said Rob Kopecky, the organization's president.

"People in Elmhurst say, 'We don't have a drug addiction problem. Come on, this is Elmhurst,'" Kopecky said. "Well, that's absolutely incorrect. We do. ... I think the fact that we're investing some funds, we could raise the viability of the program. We could educate the community on the fact that even though Elmhurst is a highly respected community and that we're in a high socioeconomic area, it does exist in this area."

Rosecrance, which offers addiction and mental health services, will provide free screening assessments for teenagers who are identified as having an incident related to substance abuse,said Matthew Quinn, a Rosecrance community relations coordinator with a focus on the western suburbs, who is a York graduate and Lombard resident.

He said he hopes that having it at school during the day would make getting assessments and support easier for families affected by substance abuse, and Rosecrance might expand services to other schools in the area if the model works better than having the support groups at satellite offices.

"Really the idea is trying to identify kids early and then eliminate barriers to getting them the help that they need," Quinn said.

After the assessment, a referral would be made to an early intervention group he would lead, possibly along with York social workers, or to a more intensive program, such as Rosecrance's Rockford substance abuse treatment facility.

"The basic idea in a nutshell is to try to nip the issue in the bud with these kids through doing this group so it doesn't become a bigger problem down the road," Quinn said.

Kopecky shares those hopes.

"We're hoping that by funding a room and a little bit of the Rosecrance counseling area, that we could make a dent and we could save some of these kids that have been identified as on the road to becoming drug-addicted," Kopecky said.

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