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Student Assistance Programs

Provides information for implementing new Student Assistance Programs (SAPs) along with resources for strengthening existing SAPs.

Student Assistance Programs (SAPs) evolved from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) model of the 1960s-1970s. Recognition of the importance of removing all barriers to work performance translated to school policy in the 1980s when SAPs developed in the vein of EAPs. SAPs at first only addressed substance abuse in students, but soon expanded to help address a wide range of issues that impede adolescent academic achievement. These non-academic barriers to learning include, but are not limited to the following:

  • school adjustment problems
  • trauma generated at school or at home
  • attendance and dropout problems
  • mental health issues including depression or suicide issues, self-injury, stress and anxiety related issues, grief
  • physical and sexual abuse, violence
  • substance abuse
  • gender issues
  • teen pregnancy and parenting
  • family issues including dissolution, homelessness or displacement, family member mental health and substance use disorders, and relationship difficulties
  • parent or other family member incarceration
  • military deployment
  • delinquency and involvement with the juvenile justice system

As Gary Anderson writes in the first published model for Student Assistance Programs, “Any student assistance program effort demonstrates that a school system recognizes, first, that such problems do plague students and, second, that a responsible system of adults must respond and help.” (Hipsley, 2001)

According to the California Student Survey External link opens in new window or tab., trends reveal that high rate use of alcohol or drugs by California students increase significantly in the middle and high school years. Over the last decade, eleventh grade excessive alcohol users’ and high risk drug users’ rates are typically between one-third higher and twice as high as ninth grade rates. The recent emphasis on prevention has not reduced the portion of students who use at a high rate. The goals of SAPs are to reduce students’ behavioral and disciplinary violations and substance use habits while improving school attendance and academic performance through the referral and facilitation of appropriate services.


Student Assistance Program (SAP) Bulletins
These bulletins have been designed to support school administrators, teachers, counselors and other school district personnel, non-profit organizations, and agencies who are involved with SAPs.


California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC) External link opens in new window or tab.
The CEBC is a searchable online registry of evidence-based practices for children and families involved with the child welfare system.

SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices External link opens in new window or tab.
A searchable online registry from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of more than 400 substance use and mental health interventions developed to help the public learn more about prevention and intervention resources available for implementation.

Research Studies, Information, and Free Materials

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse External link opens in new window or tab.
A non-profit research and policy organization with resources focused on improving understanding, prevention and treatment of substance use and addiction.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) External link opens in new window or tab.
NCTSN works to increase access to services and raise the standard of care through public education, workforce development, improved access to quality treatment, policy analysis and education, development of effective trauma-informed evidence-based practices, and initiatives to address gaps in services for underserved children and special populations.

Search Institute
External link opens in new window or tab.
An independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide leadership, knowledge, and resources to promote healthy children, youth, and communities. The heart of the institute's work is the framework of 40 Developmental Assets External link opens in new window or tab..

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration External link opens in new window or tab.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.


Connecticut Governor's Prevention Partnership External link opens in new window or tab.
The Student Assistance Program is a school-based prevention and early intervention program for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Masonic Model Foundation for Children External link opens in new window or tab.
The National Masonic Foundation for Children established in 1986, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that seeks to promote programs in schools, particularly the Masonic Model Student Assistance Program, to identify the barriers preventing students from achieving academic success and provide intervention to help the youth of this country lead productive, useful, and healthy lives. More than 36,000 educators have attended Masonic Model training which has resulted in more than half a million school children being successfully referred to and helped by this program.

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids External link opens in new window or tab.
A non-profit supporting families struggling with substance abuse. They offer confidential one-on-one counseling as well as a library of resources to connect with teens about drug use.

Prevention First External link opens in new window or tab.
The Student Assistance Center offers resources to develop capacity in schools to implement a systems approach to delivering non-academic services to students and improving school climate.

Student Assistance Program Guidebook External link opens in new window or tab.
This Student Assistance Program Guidebook offers processes, strategies, tools, websites and other resources for schools implementing or looking to implement evidence-based Student Assistance Programs as a strong system to support those struggling students.


Center for Applied Research Solutions (CARS) External link opens in new window or tab.
Provides professional development and technical assistance for substance abuse and mentoring professionals.

Questions:   Coordinated School Health and Safety Office | 916-319-0914
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, March 7, 2018