ICYMI: White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Gupta visits King County to learn more about efforts to support youth

Last week, Dr. Gupta joined King County Executive Dow Constantine, DCHS Director Leo Flor, students, a parent of an alumni, and staff for a tour of the Interagency Recovery Academy, the state’s only publicly funded recovery high school. DCHS supports behavioral health outreach and recovery activities at the Recovery Academy by contributing state and federal funding.  

The Interagency Recovery Academy was established in 2015 as a partnership between Seattle Public Schools Interagency Academy Queen Anne Campus and the King County Behavioral Health and Recovery Division in DCHS. Recovery schools’ primary goal is to educate students working a recovery program in a sober environment. Staff members typically include substance use counselors, teachers and mental health professionals. Students can enroll in the Recovery School at any point during their high school career. Between 27 and 39 students attended the Recovery School during each school year. From 2016-2021, 70 percent of students at the Seattle Recovery School have earned, or are working toward, a high school diploma at the school. 

Three students spoke with Dr. Gupta about the importance of a substance free space where staff and counselors feel like family and people can start from a place of connection and community.  

Later in the afternoon, Dr. Gupta convened a roundtable discussion with King County public health and public safety officials, school administrators, families, and students on the risks of youth substance use, prevention efforts at the school, and access to naloxone. Best Starts for Kids invests in 36 of the 38 school-based health centers around the region. The centers provide a range of services from primary care to well-child exams and mental health counseling, and collaborate with schools to address any concerns or adverse experiences that affect students’ healthy development. In the 2021-22 school year, more than 8,000 King County students received medical and mental health care at a school-based health center, which amounts to about 40,000 health visits.   

In addition, the School-Based Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to services or treatment (SB SBIRT) is currently in 13 school districts, including Highline High School and one private school around King County. School-based SBIRT promotes social and emotional health and prevents substance use for middle and high-school students. Once a student fills out a brief survey, they are offered opportunities to connect to individualized resources and speak with a caring adult who has been trained in the school-based SBIRT model. In the 2022-2023 school year, 11,867 young people were screened in schools using the school-based SBIRT tool. When the screening identified an immediate safety or prevention/intervention concern, 60.8 percent of high school students and 50 percent of middle school students received a brief intervention. 

Best Starts for Kids helps programs like SB SBIRT and school-based health centers continue in school districts across King County and ensures continuity of care and stability for young people.  These services promote early intervention, prevention, and treatment of health-related barriers to learning and life success.  

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