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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Laveen Students and Families Apply Anti-Bullying Principles

It’s Thursday night in Laveen, AZ and school children are acting out scenes from a play they wrote tonight, giggling with their parents and siblings, engaging in interactive play with a serious anti-drug and anti-alcohol message. It’s a new season of FAST(Families And Schools Together), the 8-week relationship-building program that Southwest Behavioral Health Services, www.sbhservices.org, is launching in conjunction with the Laveen School District.
 
FAST is designed to prevent substance abuse in public schools and strengthen family management skills and bonding.  The program is designed to build relationships between families, communities and schools that promote school safety.  Funded by a Literacy Grant, FAST was created for school districts with high numbers of at-risk students who are susceptible to gangs, drugs, violence and scholastic degradation. 
 
The Laveen FAST program, which commences this month and continues through June 8, has weekly sessions that pair school prevention specialists and school personnel with behavioral health specialists and 14 families with children ages 3-12 years old.  The program promotes outreach to stressed and socially isolated, often low-income families, with weekly multi-family meetings to engage the families with one another and with the school.
 
FAST is run by a parent-professional partnership offering family meals, family communication games, peer social networking and a parent playing one-on-one with their child to increase strong bonds.  After the two-month program is completed there are monthly multi-family meetings to maintain the informal social network of parents at the child’s school.
 
The highly interactive multi-family group sessions offer structured opportunities to have fun as a family while achieving protective benefits for children. Each weekly session starts with a meal that is prepared by one of the families for the other participating families.  During the program, FAST team members provide highly participatory and structured, research-based activities with turn-taking, experiential learning and parent support.  Each of the graduates participate in launching future FAST sessions, ensuring that life skills are shared and cemented, as part of the personal confidence each participant gains.
 
Southwest Behavioral Health Systems conducts substance abuse prevention after-school programs in the school districts of Laveen, Isaac, Washington, Roosevelt and Dysart.  Among those best practice programs are FAST, Second Step, and Character Counts.  Each of these programs help children learn about the dangers of substance abuse, while reinforcing positive role models and teaching valuable life skills. 
 
Other area school districts that have held FAST programs include Dysart Elementary, Washington Elementary, and Roosevelt, encompassing more than 600 participants to date.  According to Christine Montague, Community Youth Program Director for SBH, “In previous FAST programs, the results went way beyond all expectations.  Not only did families grow closer as part of the experience, students learned how to cope with stressful situations and how to manage life for success.  The families have stronger ties to their communities and have remained in contact with other participants, years after the programs concluded.” 

Background

Southwest Behavioral Health Systems, a 501c3 non-profit agency, www.sbhservices.org, has served adults and their families in the Phoenix area since 1969.  With 600 full-time staff, and approximately 50 facilities located throughout central Arizona, SBH provides comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adolescents and adults with active partnerships throughout Arizona for all walks of life.  Staff and volunteers reflect the cultural diversity of the community.  Southwest Behavioral Health Systems headquarters are located at 3450 N. Third St. in downtown Phoenix, AZ 85014; 602-265-8338, fax 602-265-8377.  Service areas include the Phoenix Metropolitan area, rural western Maricopa County, Payson, northern Gila County and some areas of Pinal County.

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