It’s back-to-school season, and while students won’t receive grades for a few months, principals and superintendents are about to get their annual report cards. Advocates can use these report cards to expand school-based substance use prevention and early intervention services.

Each fall, thanks to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), state education agencies identify schools that are underperforming on issues like academic achievement and chronic absenteeism. Schools that receive failing grades are required to develop improvement plans for the following year. As they do, advocates have the opportunity to get involved, make the case for substance use prevention, and bring key stakeholders (i.e., young people!) into the conversation.

Substance use prevention and early intervention services are key strategies to reducing chronic absenteeism and improving student success! By engaging school leaders as they develop their state improvement plans, advocates have the opportunity to educate school leaders on this issue and convince them to make substance use prevention a priority. For that to happen, school leaders need to understand why substance use prevention services are important and how providing these services will improve their grades in next year’s state-issued report cards.

A new toolkit from Community Catalyst offers resources that advocates need when engaging directly with schools and education officials, including information about screening and brief intervention, a fact sheet to help advocates make the case for substance use prevention, and a step-by-step guide for building support. With encouragement from advocates, schools can integrate substance use prevention and community supports into ESSA activities, support these activities with ESSA funding, and ensure that youth struggling with substance misuse get the services and support they need to thrive in school and beyond.

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