The icanhelp Program Trains Teachers and Clergy to Help Addicted Teens

By Luke Walker 11/21/11

Learning to raise sensitive subjects more effectively is vital for professionals who seek to intervene.

The program seeks to equip professionals
who work with teens.

As the principal of a recovery high school in Massachusetts, Michelle Lipinski has long assisted addicted teenagers; but they often distrust authority figures and seem unwilling to begin the conversations that can help them. To break these barriers, she's developed a new program: icanhelp. It trains teachers, coaches and church clergy members how to approach issues like drugs, addiction, pregnancy and abuse with teens they encounter. Most importantly, Lipinksi says, the program teaches participants how to raise such subjects with vulnerable, wary students—while keeping a safe distance. “We offer a safe, supportive environment where kids will confide in us with their problems,” she tells The Fix. "Kids want to talk; they often just don’t know how." Assisted by outreach organizations, she personally hosts training sessions in local high schools. icanhelp also subtly advertises drug awareness, services and support by posting lists of questions in high school halls and classrooms, prompting students to relate them to their own lives. Lipinski suggests this understated approach lets kids “self-identify” their problems, and seek help on their own terms. “There’s a big gap between prevention and treatment for kids who don’t have a mechanism to talk with an adult. There’s a way to intervene earlier, before it’s too late.” A 2010 National Drug Institute on Drug Abuse study found that 48.2% of teens try an illicit drug by the 12th grade. Anyone seeking more information on the program can email: [email protected].

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